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:
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:
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”
Nice idea. I have a packet of prunes.
Stewed prunes are a nice, easy way to serve prunes.
Interesting, that even back then they counted the calories
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.
I have grandma’s old cookbook and was surprised at how many recipes contained prunes.
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.
Mother made a prune cake occasionally, and I recall it was very tasty. I may still have the recipe–curious now!
So did my Mother! I always liked it. We need to compare recipes if we can find them!
I don’t think that I’ve ever had prune cake, but after reading these comments, I want to find a recipe for one. 🙂
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!
I hope that you can find the recipe. It sounds good.
Prunes are already so sweet, I use them to sweeten my plain yogurt.
Why are modern prunes so moist and sticky?
I wondered the same thing, and just read that it’s improved packaging that keeps them moist, rather than any additive, etc.
It’s interesting packaging improvements have resulted in moister prunes.
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.
I love that the recipe includes the calories for the entire amount as well as a serving!
It’s like they were still figuring what format to use when listing calories.
What is interesting, and this has been discussed before on your blog, the counting of calories a hundred years ago was not so much to limit them, but to ensure folks were getting enough calories!
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.
I remember my grandmother usually had stewed prunes prepared. They didn’t appeal as a child, but I love the flavor of prunes, now!
It’s fascinating how our food preferences change over the years.
Very true, Sheryl!
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.
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.
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!
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
Yes, and while keeping a recipe file on a computer is great, I keep a hard copy of everything, too. Cakes fall, and computers fail.
You are very wise – I’ve come to realize that it is important to save important things in multiple formats.
They were a regular item on the school lunch tray! I loved them – and many would trade the prunes for half a carrot stick! Yum!
Your comment brings back warm memories of trading foods with friends in the school cafeteria when I was a child.
I have to admit, I’ve never developed a taste for prunes!
Prunes seem like a food that people either really like or really don’t like.
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
That a fun memory. I like prunes, but chocolate pudding sounds better. 🙂
I love stewed prunes.
Ahhhh I have memories of the little ditty we used to sing as we counted the prune stones…Love prunes and custard 🙂
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.
It is Sheryl and a reminder that I need to make it again when I get some prunes 🙂
Prunes are so good… I’ll serve prunes and cheese together on a plate in a nice arrangement, it soon disappears .
Great suggestion. I never would have thought of serving prunes and cheese on an hors-d’œuvre plate.
Hmm, that made me remember making stewed prune in Home Ec. Must have been one of the first classes.
Nice to hear that this post brought back some (hopefully good) memories of home ec class.
Loved home ec!!
You see stewed prunes often served on breakfast buffets in Europe which I enjoy.
There are such wonderful breakfast buffets in Europe. Hopefully these wonderful buffets will continue to exist post-COVID.