Forgive me, I wish I had eaten the prune plums, but I had to make lekvar (prune paste) instead. Lekvar is easy but takes a long time. If you start with actual dried prunes, it’s much faster, but I was gifted 25 pounds or so windfall fruit from the Friendly Fruit Tree Project to process, so the first step was roasting the fruit to remove liquid and concentrate the sugars.
Once the fruit had been picked over, cleaned, and roasted overnight, I squeezed out the pits and cooked down the puree even longer. Once it had significantly reduced in size, I milled out the skins and remaining stems, even catching a few errant pits.
Then I added sugar at a 1.5:1 ratio, a cup of sugar for every 1 and a half cups of puree. This yields a product that isn’t very sweet, but still provides a jam-like feel. And added the juice of a lemon to acidify the mix. Some people add lemon or orange zest at this point.
I cooked the lekvar down for several more hours, carefully monitoring the bottom of the pan, which is very susceptible to burning. The stuff thickened and reduced by about a third before I decided it was ready. And then voilà! Dark, mysterious prune plum paste for fall. It can be stored in the refrigerator or frozen, as it’s a bit too thick to be processed safely.
One can use lekvar in so many wonderful ways: to stuff dumplings, fill cookies and Hamantaschen, spread on cheese or cheese crackers, or this, a wondrous creation from the Friuli region of Italy, inspired by Fred Plotkin’s recipe in La Terra Fortunata: The Splendid Food and Wine of Friuli-Venezia Guilia, Italy’s Great Undiscovered Region. Sguazeto sauce is used on roasted pork, but it makes a nice sticky barbecue sauce, too, for pork chops or a small shoulder roast. It usually starts with prunes, but prune paste works like a dream.
Sguazeto for Roasted Pork
- 2 heaping teaspoons pine nuts
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 tablespoons. olive oil
- 1/4 cup lekvar (or, if you don’t have lekvar, substitute 3 Brooks prunes, chopped and plumped up with some wine for 30 minutes, then mashed)
- 2 tablespoons chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon. white wine vinegar
Roast the pine nuts and cumin seeds on a medium-high burner until fragrant. Combine the pine nuts and cumin in a mortar and pound with a pestle until you have a fine paste, then mix with honey and olive oil. Heat mixture with lekvar, chicken stock, and vinegar and simmer for 10 minutes or so until flavors combine.
Roast or grill your meat as desired, dressed simply with salt and pepper. Remove from grill and top with sguazeto just prior to serving, or brush some on in the last 15 minutes of cooking. Garnish with chopped parsley and few whole pinenuts.