MCC: A Tarte of Proines (aka Spiced Plum Spread)


Medieval Cooking Challenge buttonIt’s the second month of the Medieval Cooking Challenge, an experiment where we take real Medieval recipes and prepare them in our modern kitchens, bringing the past into the present.

Spiced Plum Spread on Olive Oil Toast, garnished with Lemon Zest

Spiced Plum Spread on Olive-Oiled Toast, garnished with Lemon Zest

After last month’s Andalusian Lamb (which was a little complex), we’re going later within the Medieval period and a bit simpler in method of preparation. This recipe for a dried plum (aka prune–but don’t let the connotations of the word scare you off!) spread that is great on slices of baguette as an appetizer or an afternoon snack or used, as the name would suggest, as a tart filling or topping.


The original recipe is from 1587 England, from a book known as The Good Huswifes Jewell, 1587

To make a Tarte of Prunes [alternately spelled Proines]

Put your Prunes into a pot, and put in red wine or claret wine, and a little faire water, and stirre them now and then, and when they be boyled enough, put them into a bowle, and straine them with sugar, synamon and ginger.

Gotta love that creative spelling from back then!

The redacted recipe quantities I’ve taken (and adjusted ever so slightly) from a fabulous modern book: Shakespeare’s Kitchenby Francine Segan. Not all of the recipes in this book reference their original Italian or English inspirations but some do, and it was indispensable as I planned my first Medieval feast for 60-80 people.


Spiced Plum Spread

1.5 cups Red Wine
9 oz Pitted Dried Plums (aka prunes, about 30)
3 Tbsp Sugar
2 Tbsp minced Ginger
2 Cinnamon Stick (2 inches or so)

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and simmer until most of the liquid has either been absorbed or evaporated and what’s left is very thick. Remove the mixture from the heat and remove the cinnamon stick. Mash the cooked mixture until a fairly smooth consistency is reached.

Step-by-Step Spiced Plum Spread

Makes approximately 1 cup.

Originally I’d suggested using crystallized ginger and adding it to the mixture between the cooking and mashing stages but decided to go with the minced ginger since I had it on hand. (I buy it in the tubes from the produce section–comes in very handy and keeps wonderfully!) You can use more or less of the ginger and cinnamon to suit your own preferences.


At this point what you do with it is up to you. You could go old-school and fill a single large or several small tarts shells with the mixture and serve it as is. Or you can serve it, warm, in a small crock with fresh bread and soft butter like you would a marmalade or jelly. Based on the rich flavor this dish provides, I’m thinking a topping for a cream cheese tart would be fabulous–the cream cheese only slightly sweetened so as to cut the richness of the plum topping the way vanilla ice cream can cut through the richness of a double-chocolate cake.

If you have fresh plums available (I know we have a few left over from a recent farmers’ market trip) you can use them in addition to or instead of the dried variety but you’ll need to use more of them to start with as well as more sugar (drying concentrates the fruit’s flavor and sweetness) and it will probably need to cook longer to give it enough time to thicken properly.

I’ve got a party coming up next month so I’ve stashed mine in the freezer to save until then–it’ll be a nice addition to the menu I’ve got planned.


Did you try this month’s Medieval Cooking Challenge? Make sure to leave you link in the comments!

Would you like to get on the mailing list for future month’s challenges? Head over to the MCC page, sign up and grab the button for your sidebar!

Wine Notes: Mavrodaphne of Patras

Mavrodaphne of Patras

Mavrodaphne of Patras

On Friday night, Todd and I headed out to the Holy Mother of God Greek Orthodox Church and the annual Greek Food Festival.

I gave a fairly complete picture (or, rather, several of them) of the night over on Nibbles, yesterday, but I glossed over our wine selection–on purpose! I was saving a little something for Sips.

In previous years we haven’t gone into the Taverna for whatever reason but this year it was on my definite to-do list. We weren’t much interested in the beer or ouzo, but I wanted to see what was different about Greek wine.

Well, they weren’t doing actual tastings and even though the $4 a glass price wasn’t too bad, tasting 4 wines at the end of the night probably wasn’t the best idea. So we chatted with the guy manning the counter and he was pushing us a bit towards the whites (one of which had a piney taste? I’ll stick to gin for drinking trees, I think) but when we saw the sales sheet listed a sweet red, I just had to try it.

Our would-be wine steward wasn’t sure I knew what I wanted, though, and insisted I take a little sip before he poured me an actual glass.

Oh. My. Yes.

The wine is Mavrodaphne of Patras Kourtaki and the first thing my tongue told me was Yum! The flavor is described as dried fruit–figs, prunes, raisins–and reminds me of some ports I’ve tasted, yet it doesn’t appear to be a fortified wine. It’s definitely sweet, a great dessert choice and one that you’ll want to sip slowly.

I know I’ll be checking my local wine shops to see if they carry it, this is one I want to keep on hand!

Did the Islands Relocate to Nebraska?

Whiskey Run Creek

Whiskey Run Creek (image borrowed from their Facebook page)

No, not quite.

The words St Croix on a bottle of wine from Whiskey Run Creek Vineyard & Winery refer to a hardy type of grape, one of several that can withstand Nebraska’s cold winters.

Who knew?

On a recent trip to Nebraska we didn’t have time to visit any of the 20+ wineries in the are but we were treated to a wonderful dinner at Todd’s mom’s home that included opening a bottle of 2006 St Croix.

The wine was a deep, dark red–almost like a port in color–with a hint of oak on the nose but very little of that woody taste in the wine itself.  The website describes it as having notes of cherry and plum–no disagreement here–and we can attest that it is absolutely divine with a good steak. It was a pleasure to drink and we hope to try it again on our next trip. (Unfortunately, Florida’s wine import laws are so draconian that they cannot ship wine to Florida. Harrumph.)

Review: ChocoVine




On a recent wander through World Market I was headed for a freshly-opened check out line when I did a honest-to-Bacchus double take. Near the registers was a display of something that looked like chocolate milk in a wine bottle, selling for $11.99.

The cashier informed me that it was actually pretty good and I wavered. I figured, for twelve bucks I could give in to my curiosity.

From the label:


The taste of dutch chocolate and find red wine

Product of Holland * 14% Alcohol/Volume

Imported by Clever Imports LLC
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312

Consume within six months of opening.
Shake well, store in a cool dark place.
Do not mix with acidic drinks!

It was a couple of days before we had a chance to open it’s screw-top lid. Poured into glasses it still looked like chocolate milk and, when swirled, resembled oily chocolate milk. I know that doesn’t sound very appetizing and, yet…

The taste is distinctive–rich, definitely chocolate, with a hint of something stronger underneath. Todd suggested Kahlua and I had to agree that it was reminiscent of a Mudslide but further sipping made me think of a melted Wendy’s Frosty. Only spiked.

We’ve sipped it on two occasions and still have a third of a bottle left–it’s pretty potent stuff. Unlike a bottle of red wine which you could sip on over the course of an evening, CocoVine is a dessert in and of itself and best in small doses.



A fruited wine beverage, Sangria has as many variations as it has makers. The downside, generally speaking, is that to make good Sangria you need time. Namely, time for the fruit to mix and meld with the other ingredients. But what if you want Sangria now, and you’ve got all the parts but you’d rather drink it tonight as opposed to tomorrow? Are you doomed to a passable but not spectacular bottled version? Is there a happy medium between 8-hours and a screw-top bottle?

I think so.

In fact, my theory is that you can “fake” the steeping period by the application of gentle heat to the fruit and any other items you are adding to the wine base (because in addition to a variety of fruits and their juices, brandy, spices or even some flavored vodka could be used). In this scenario, you could then have a very flavorful Sangria in an hour or so, instead of overnight. Plus, you can make just enough for a drink or two (or a person or two) without needing to make an entire pitcher.

Red Sangria for 2

Combine in a small saucepan:

1 lime, cut into slices
2 strawberries, hulled and halved
a couple chunks of pineapple
1 Tbsp white sugar
2 Tbsp hot water
Small cinnamon stick (optional)

Bring this mix to a gentle simmer then reduce heat to low. Use a muddler or wooden spoon to gently break up the fruit. After about 10 minutes, add

1-2 oz vanilla vodka

turn off the burner and let the mixture sit for another 10-15 minutes.

Pour the fruit mix (sans cinnamon stick) into a glass jar or carafe or divide between two tall glasses. Pour in

4-6 oz. red table wine per glass

and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Serve with more fruit, if desired, and enjoy your drink!

Variation: White Sangria for 2

Substitute a handful of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries for the lemon and pineapple in the red version and skip the cinnamon stick. Use Apple Brandy instead of the vodka and a white wine for the red.

Compared to the bottled Sangria I picked up for comparison, both of my versions (actually, all four since I tried each fruit/liquor combo with each wine just out of curiosity) were less sweet than the pre-made. You could add orange juice (red) or white grape juice (white) if you wanted a fruitier, sweeter beverage or add club soda or some other fizzy drink for a bubbly version.