Spiced Pickled Agen Prunes in Armagnac

It's great to have a jar of these pickles in the cupboard to serve with cold meats or pates, but I think they also make a wonderful accompaniment to Crisp Roast Duck with Confit of Sour Cherries.

Makes five 1 lb (350 ml capacity) jars

Spiced Pickled Agen Prunes in Armagnac
 2 lb (900 g) Agen prunes, pitted
 6 cloves
 2 blades mace
 6 allspice berries
 5 small sticks cinnamon
 5 tablespoons Armagnac
 1 tablespoon Lapsang Souchong tea
 1 pint (570 ml) good-quality red wine vinegar
 8 oz (225 g) light muscovado sugar
You will also need five 1 lb (350 ml capacity) jars, sterilised.


You need to begin this the night before. Measure 2 pints (1.2 litres) of boiling water into a measuring jug, then stir in the tea and allow it to steep for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, put the prunes into a large, non-metallic bowl. Now strain the tea and allow it to cool completely before pouring it over the prunes. Then cover the bowl with a clean tea cloth and leave them to soak overnight.
Next day, put the vinegar, along with the sugar and spices, into a medium-sized saucepan, bring everything slowly up to the boil, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, drain off the tea and pack the prunes into hot, sterilised jars (see below), filling them as full as possible. Now transfer the liquid from the pan to the jug and carefully pour it over the prunes, swivelling the jars to make sure they are completely covered. Finally, spoon a tablespoon of Armagnac into each jar, then cover straightaway with a waxed disc and seal tightly with a vinegar-proof lid. When the pickles are cold, label the jars and store in a cool, dry, dark place for at least 3 months – the prunes will go on getting better as they mature.
To sterilise jars, wash the jars and lids in warm, soapy water, rinse well (again in warm water), then dry them thoroughly with a clean tea cloth, place them on a baking tray and pop them in a medium oven, gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C) for a minimum of 5 minutes. Add their contents while they are still hot.
_This recipe is taken from How to Cook Book Three._

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