Old-fashioned Stewed Prunes

stewed prunes

Hundred-year-old cookbooks sometimes contain very basic recipes, such as a recipe for stewed prunes. I’m a little surprised when an author puts such a simple recipe in a cookbook – though I also find it fascinating how basic foods have changed over the past hundred years. Back then (and even when I was young) prunes were very dry and needed extensive soaking and cooking to make tender stewed prunes; whereas today many supermarket prunes are very moist when taken out of the package and need to be stewed for only a few minutes.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Stewed Prunes
Source: The New Cookery (1921) by Lenna Frances Cooper

One-half pound of prunes is about 1 cup of prunes. I’m not clear why the directions refer to 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon for each two cups of prunes. Maybe the author was referring to the volume of prunes after they are soaked. In any case, when I updated the recipe, rather than trying to estimate the volume of the prunes, I assumed that the recipe calls for adding 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon (if desired).

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Stewed Prunes

  • Servings: 3 - 5
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1/2 pound prunes (approximately 1 cup prune)

1 cup water (more may be needed if the prunes are very dry.)

1/4 cup sugar, if desired

1 tablespoon lemon juice, if desired

Put prunes and water in a saucepan. If desired, stir in the sugar. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat until it simmers. Cook until the prunes are tender and the liquid is syrupy (about 15 minutes – if the prunes are moist; longer if they are very dry). Remove from heat, and, if desired stir in the lemon juice.


46 thoughts on “Old-fashioned Stewed Prunes

    1. My sense is that calories were a relatively new concept in the early 1900s. The first time that I saw calories listed for a recipe was in some issues of Good Housekeeping in 1917 – though the calorie counts were just for the entire recipe and not per serving. I actually was so surprised to see this in the magazine that I noted the new recipe format when posting a recipe for Lemon Dumplings from the magazine.

    1. Similarly to you, I’ve noticed that there were a lot more prune recipes in hundred-year-old cookbooks than what there in modern cookbooks. Prunes apparently were more popular back then than what they are now.

        1. If I can find the recipe, I’ll do a post on it! As a child I also liked the prunes right from the box, yet I was a very picky eater regarding everything else!

    1. I also think that prunes seem very sweet. I was surprised that the old recipe called for adding sugar to the prunes (though at least the recipe author noted that the sugar could be omitted). I’m guessing that prunes are moister now because processing methods have changed across the years.

        1. When I read old articles about how to serve inexpensive meals that contain lots of calories, it makes me realize how tight money must have been for many families back then.

  1. When I was first learning how to cook, I had no prior experience. I didn’t grow up cooking with my mom or dad, and hadn’t relly been around a kitchen. So I always appreciated even the simplest of recipes. That’s how I learned. It is funny, though, how things’ve changed, as you remarked. It took a long time to understand that some older recipes called on ingredients that have changed over time.

    1. You’re absolutely right – even the simplist of recipes can be very helpful. Old recipes are a wonderful window into the foods, ingredients, and cooking processes of the past.

  2. We used to stew prunes and apricots together; it was a tasty combination. That same combo is good with pork, too. A friend sent me her recipe once, but I can’t find it, and the friend’s no longer with me. Lesson learned: if a recipe’s good, write it down. Don’t assume you can get it later!

    1. mmm. . . Prunes and apricots sounds like a nice combination. Your comment is a good reminder to write recipes down. It’s a little extra time, but helps ensure having it later

  3. Every time I hear the phrase “stewed prunes” I think of Disney – it has a sequel to Cinderella where the Royal governess loves order tradition and stewed prunes – and Cinderella comes in as princess and switches things up to chocolate pudding and it causes a stir lol

    1. It’s nice hear hear that this post brought back some fun memories. I never would have thought of combining prunes and custard, but it sounds tasty.

  4. Prunes are so good… I’ll serve prunes and cheese together on a plate in a nice arrangement, it soon disappears .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s