Prunes are a special type of dried plum. The plums are oval, black-skinned, loose-stoned and very sweet. They can be dried or semi-dried and the most famous variety is Prunes d’Agen.
There is an important distinction between prunes labelled ‘prune d’Agen’ and those labelled ‘prunes d’Agen’.
The term prune d’Agen refers to the region where the prunes are grown (Agen), whereas ‘Prunes d’Agen’ are widely grown and mainly imported from California. Carlsbad plums are large prunes that are sold at Christmas.
Use dried prunes in sweet or savoury liquid dishes such as cock-a-leekie, tagines, stews and compôtes. Slow-cook them with rabbit, chicken, lamb, beef, hare, pork or eel. They also have an affinity with armagnac, tea and spiced syrups. Dried prunes can be bottled in brandy.
Semi-dried prunes are good for fast-cooked savoury dishes, almond tarts, rich fruit cakes, muesli and breads. They can also be stuffed, wrapped in bacon and served as a savoury snack, or stuffed with marzipan or dipped in chocolate and served as a sweetmeat.