Pruneaux à l’Armagnac: Prunes in Armagnac


(If you are reading this post on a RSS reader, you might want to click through to Chez Pim for the slideshow.

In Gascony, you’re not invited in for coffee. You are invited for pruneaux. Not just simple prunes, mind you. The prunes they serve in Gascony after dinner – or as a side to a dishy conversation – are pruneaux à l’Armagnac, prunes soaked in Armagnac. Sweet, potent, delicious, and certainly not the stuff your grandma takes to stay regular. Unless your grandma is Tony Bourdain in drag.

I’ve been pining over the prunes soaked in Armagnac since I came back from Gascony. One lucky day, I came upon a bag of prunes in my cupboard, Pruneaux d’Agen demi-sec that I bought on a visit to Kate’s Camont earlier this year. I had nearly forgotten about it. Now I can have my own pruneaux at home.

The first obstacle between me and my pruneaux is finding a bottle of Armagnac. It’s not as easy as you think. If the Armagnac is too old or refined, it would be a crime to muck with it. While crappy Armagnac just isn’t worth drinking, prunes or sans prunes.

I ended up with a bottle of Château de Pellehaut Reserve Armagnac from Ténareze. I knew nothing about this producer, but I used a little trick my friend Claude taught me years ago. I turned the bottle to see the importer: when in doubt, trust good importers, so said Claude. (And so did Eric Asimov in the NYT a while back too if I remember correctly, but I can’t seem to find that article in the Times database.) In this case, the importer is Charles Neal, who wrote the definitive book on Armagnac called – what else – Armagnac.

The next obstacle is to find a recipe. Kate told me that I couldn’t simply add dried prunes into armagnac, as the alcohol will cause the skin to seize up and become leathery. The prunes must go through some sort of cooking, either steaming or steeping in something non-alcoholic before being added to the armagnac. Then I stumbled upon this recipe, which looks pretty good. So I decided to give it a try. The only thing I changed was the amount of Armagnac. The recipe asked for 2/3 bottle (50cl). But I thought, heck, what’s the
harm in tipping the entire bottle in, and so I did. Didn’t hurt it one
bit. Of course.

So, here’s my adapted recipe. Enjoy.

Pruneaux à l’Armagnac: prune in Armagnac

500g dried prune, pruneaux demi-sec
200g (1 cup) sugar
1/4l (1 cup) water
1 lemon
1 pod of vanilla
1 bottle of good Armagnac

In a small sauce pan, add the sugar and water and heat until boiling. Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler to peel strips of skin from the lemon, add them to the pot. Slice the vanilla bean in half, and drop them into the pot.

When the pot comes to a boil, let it continue boiling for two minutes. Then, put the prunes in a medium bowl and pour the boiling liquid over it. Let the ingredients steep for 12 hours.

After 12 hours, remove the lemon peel and vanilla pod. Spoon the prunes into a large mason jar. Pour the Armagnac into the remaining liquid in the bowl, mix well. Pour the content of the bowl through a sieve into the mason jar. Close the jar tightly and let stand for at least two weeks, or preferably one month, before use.

To serve.
I serve this as an after dinner surprise. Each guest gets a tiny glass with one prune and a good pour of the Armagnac the prunes have been soaking in. Give repeats only if they beg.

The prunes and the Armagnac in the jar make great additions to your desserts. A slice of simple butter pound cake is made super special with a prune and a generous douse of the Armagnac. A soft chocolate cake, or better yet, soufflé. Vanilla ice-cream will do too. I can go on, but I think I’ll just leave you with your imagination. Have fun.

Delicious Digg Facebook LinkedIn reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Email Print Friendly
  • Pat

    Makes memorable ice cream too. I let prunes swim in Armagnac for a year or so, then made Paula Wolfert’s prune/armagnac ice cream. Quite tasty on a winter’s night.

  • http://www.handtomouthkitchen.wordpress.com B

    Not to sound foolish or anything, but I love soaking, um, things, in um, things. Pickling, liquored fruit, soups – mixing flavours through slow long term exposure to other flavours turns my crank. Those prunes look so yummy – who knew they could be so classy! oh wait, of course – its a french preparation ;)
    B
    http://www.handtomouthkitchen.wordpress.com

  • http://afaustianbargain.blogspot.com faustianbargain

    pim, i steep dried prunes in lemon tea.
    i am too cheap to use armagnac. i use a decent cognac or even a good quality brandy would do for me.

  • http://omnivoreherbivorecarnivore.blogspot.com Omnivora

    Could you do it with a good rum? Not the same thing of course. I’ve been soaking apricot pits in rum for the last month and I think it’s time to move the mixture to a bottle.
    en tout cas, j’adore les prunes!

  • http://afaustianbargain.blogspot.com faustianbargain

    yum..rum! you can soak lychees in rum.

  • http://www.poonamphatak.blogspot.com/ Poonam

    Hi Pim, If using sweetened prunes, can the sugar be skipped completely? Thanks!

  • Richard

    I have just returned from two weeks in Gascony where I am hooked on the Pruneaux à l’Armagnac ice cream from the wonderful ice cream shop under the arcade in Labastide d’Armagnac. Too many other wonderful flavors to mention.
    Three blocks from this ancient square is Domaine Boingnères, a great producer of Bas Armagnac. If one calls ahead it may be possible to visit, taste, and buy directly in the modern suburban-type house in which the Lafitte’s carry on the business.

  • http://www.vineyardgate.com Alex B

    I discovered how heavenly prunes and Armagnac could be when I tried Ariane Daguin’s “French Kisses” which I consider the most decadent treat in the world. The recipe could be found on her website. Here’s the link: http://www.dartagnan.com/recipe.asp?id=31&category=1

  • http://www.katehill.blogspot.com Kate Hill

    Brava Pim! On Prunes: they are special here! The egg-sized Prunes d’ente or Pruneaux d’Agen are fattening under Gascony skies. It’s rained enough for good fruit; it’s hot enough for lots of sugar. Soon that blue blush that coats the plum will be coloring the orchard just before picking next month.
    On Armagnac: Good choice with the Pellehaut. Here I also use ‘dame blanche’ the white armagnac straight from the still before it ages in barrels. And my own drinking favorite? Guy Arrouy’s Domaine de Rey. Pure poetry in a bottle.
    Come back soon- we’ll make armagnac for my B-day in november!

  • http://chezpim.typepad.com Pim

    Pat, that’s what David said last night when we had a bit (not ready yet but we couldn’t wait!). I’ll have to try that next time. Summer in the Bay Area can sometimes be mistaken for winter, so it might just work out.
    B, that is not at all foolish. I’m with you.
    Ms Bargain, I adore armagnac. It will take an extraordinary cognac to make me switch camp.
    Omnivore, shouldn’t you be careful with soaking stone fruit pits in alcohol? I’ve read somewhere about that…
    Poonam, I’m not sure you can find sweetened prunes. The dried prunes are quite sweet all by themselves. You could easily skip the sugar altogether, I hear some people (including some commentors here) steep the prunes in tea before adding to the armagnac. The trick is not to add prunes directly into the armagnac without cooking/steeping in smething first, tea should do just fine.
    Richard, next time I go visit Kate I am there. Thanks for the pointer.
    Alex, oooh that sounds great. I’m going to try it soon.
    Kate, merci, I know you’d approve. ;-) I adore Domaine du Rey’s armagnac too. You are right about the poetry….but I only brought two bottles back and there’s just the one left. Plus it is far too good, I couldn’t possibly use it for prunes!
    I don’t know if we could fine dame blanche around here, but I might try. David and I are loving this so much we are considering putting one bottle of armagnac and prunes up every week so we have unlimited supplies for ever. Kiss Bacon for me. I might just be back in November, you never know. ;-)

  • jimmy-in-Seattle

    I was just ‘checkin-in’ and noticed the ‘prune story.’ I was in Agen a few months ago, and had the best Lunch ever. There’s a restaurant ajoining the train station. Chicken-in-a-pot. They nailed it! There must of been three-hundred people having lunch in there. It was organized chaos. Oh, but the food…..
    I’ll be back in Bordeaux soon, this time looking for a second home. I was looking to see if you had found any new Bistros in Paris. I’ll always be checkin-in on ‘ya. Your writing seems inspired again. Bravo!

  • linda Stratton

    I too just returned from Gascogne. No one offers a cup of coffee when you visit but instead, a glass of Pousse Rapier. All the French women make their variation of the Creme d’ Armanagc. They start with Eau de Vie and use lemon, oranges, sugar and a vanilla bean. After 3 weeks it’s ready to drink. I have a batch now but would like to make more.
    Does anyone know where in the USA I can find Eau de Vie? The concoction is then put into a small champagne glass in a 6 to 1 ratio with chamagne. It packs a punch but is refreshing with a delightful flavor. Just one of the many things to love about this region…. who needs Paris?

  • AA

    Umm, I think I may need to go start a batch *right now* for the holidays…

  • http://twitter.com/MsMarmitelover marmitelover

    Just making some prunes in Armagnac, Pim. Reminder of my childhood near Condom, near Agen. Thanks for the recipe

  • http://www.theframedtable.com/ Andrea J. Bartholomew

    We had these with ice cream at La Fontaine de Mars in Paris recently and couldn’t wait to make them when we got home. Thank you for sharing this fantastic recipe!

  • midihideaways

    Fantastic recipe – a friend left me a jar of them made to your instructions, and they are delicious!