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Spiced Pickled Apricots and Plums in Armagnac

Mi-cuit plums are sort of half-dried prunes but juicier. Together with the apricots, they make a lovely accompaniment to cold cuts at Christmas.

 
 
 Spiced Pickled Apricots and Plums in Armagnac

  Makes 5 x 1 lb (350 ml) capacity jars

Ingredients
 6 cloves
 2 blades mace
 6 allspice berries
 5 small sticks cinnamon
 1 lb (450 g) ready-to-eat dried apricots
 1 lb (450 g) mi-cuit plums, pitted
 5 tablespoons Armagnac
 1 tablespoon Lapsang Souchong tea leaves
 1 pint (570 ml) good-quality red wine vinegar
 8 oz (225 g) light muscovado sugar
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Equipment
You will also need 5 x 1 lb (350 ml) capacity jars with vinegar-proof plastic lids, and 5 waxed discs.

Method

Begin by measuring 2 pints (1.2 litres) of boiling water into a large measuring jug, then stir in the tea and allow it to steep for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, put the apricots and plums into a large, non-metallic bowl. Now strain the tea, pouring it over the apricots and plums. Then cover the bowl with a clean tea cloth and leave the fruit to soak for 3-4 hours.

When you are ready to prepare the pickle, put the vinegar, along with the sugar and spices, into a medium saucepan, bring everything slowly up to the boil, and allow to simmer gently for 15 minutes. While this is happening, sterilise the jars (see note below). Meanwhile, drain off the tea (you don't need it any more) and pack the apricots and plums into the hot, sterilised jars, adding a cinnamon stick to each jar and filling them as full as possible. Now transfer the pickling liquid from the pan to a jug and carefully pour it over the fruit, swivelling each jar to make sure the fruit is covered. Finally, spoon a tablespoon of Armagnac into each jar, then cover straightaway with a waxed disc and seal tightly.

When the pickles are cold, label the jars and store in a cool, dark place, ideally for a month before eating.

NOTE: To sterilise jars, wash the jars and lids in warm soapy water, rinse well, then dry thoroughly with a clean tea cloth, place them on a baking tray and pop into a medium oven, gas mark 4, 350°F, 180°C, for 5 minutes.

 

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