Apricot Prune Conserve || Hitchhiking to Heaven

Red Wine and Clementine Stewed Apricots and Prunes

Stewed apricots and prunes in a flavorful syrup of clementine, red wine, and honey
 This recipe won Best of Show at the 2010 Marin County Fair

Last month I made some clementine confits, which yielded a whole lot of luscious, leftover syrup. I sent a dose of both across the country to snowbound Julia, with a question: What should we do with this delightful, golden elixir?  Her first experiment was British Flapjacks. She also seeded the idea that I might use the syrup in preserves, the way honey is sometimes used.

I opened my recipe binder and sitting right on top were directions for Red Wine Stewed Apricots and Prunes. I’ve been wanting to try this recipe since I ripped it out of a magazine over a year ago — and look, it uses honey! The apricots and prunes are dried, so I felt fine taking it on when ‘cots and plums are out of season. I started playing around and settled on this combination, which turned out to be pretty damned good, if I may say so. (I had a friend over today, and she said so, too.)

Red Wine and Clementine Stewed Apricots and Prunes

1 1/2 cups each dried, roughly chopped apricots and prunes
1 cup clementine syrup
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup red wine
1 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed clementine juice
2 Tbsp. minced clementine zest
1 cinnamon stick

Heat your oven to 400F. Combine all the ingredients in a baking pan. (The original recipe called for a 9 x 13 pan, but I didn’t have one, so I used a square 2 1/2 quart pan instead. It worked fine.) Cook in the oven until the fruit is tender and the liquid thickens. The original recipe said to cook the mixture for 40 to 50 minutes, but I let mine go for about an hour. Because I’d chopped my fruit into fairly small pieces — nickel sized, more or less — and because I cooked it for a long time, the results were quite like a jam (a conserve, technically) which I like. But it seems like it would be easy to adjust the fruit size and cooking time to create a different texture, with equally flavorful results.

I looked at these ingredients — all that citrus, sugar, and alcohol — and decided it would be just fine to preserve the results in a water bath, even though the original recipe wasn’t published for canning. I left 1/2 inch of headspace and processed for ten minutes. The yield was four half pints, one of which is nearly gone.

When I was poking around on the internet to see what I could find about canning a recipe like this, I came across this nibble from Marion Harland’s Complete Cook Book (circa 1903), reassuring us that stewed fruit is a good thing :

She who is familiar with this form of the sweetmeat alone has no conception of how palatable a dessert it makes if properly prepared. Served with plain or sponge cake it is a convenient dessert for Sunday night’s supper, or for the dainty family luncheon.

We don’t have a lot of dainty luncheons around here, but this recipe will be a more-than-welcome addition to our steel cut oats.

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