From America’s Cookbook
While flipping through these old cookbooks, prunes came up as a major ingredient time after time again, and I couldn’t help but wonder, what was the deal with prunes?
With the answer just a google search away, I found a short (well, not so short by attention-grabbing standards) article on the Sutter Foods website giving a pretty interesting (if you’re interested in this sort of thing) history of prunes, their origins, and their place in America’s pantries over the past 150 years.
The gist of the article: prunes were introduced to America by a French orchardist by the name of Louis Pellier during the California Gold Rush. Instead of striking it rich in gold, which he hoped to do but with no success, he saw great value in the land. He bought a tract and began experimenting by planting dried plums. With the long, dry, sunny days in California the plum trees took off. Within a couple decades, the trans-continental railroad expanded markets for dried foods in populated parts of the United States like the East Coast and Midwest.
As it pertains to the 1943 cookbook, the demand for exporting dried plums curtailed during WWII, and, you guessed it: when exports declined, there was a push for the domestic homemaker to use prunes in cooking. There were ads in magazines and on the radio encouraging folks to enter prune recipe contests. Service men were even hired to encourage store owners to build displays for their stores. The year this cookbook was published, prunes were added to the list of rationed foods, leading to consumer decline.
This recipe is for sausage stuffed prunes, and it’s simply that. You heat up prunes, stuff them with a cocktail sausages, and bake them until they’re hot. It’s the predecessor, I think, to the modern day cocktail sausage recipes you find at parties. You know the ones, covered with fruit marmalade or barbecue sauce. I did not take a picture because, well, there wasn’t much to take a picture of. The prunes were too small, even after cooking, to stuff with a sausage, so I just laid it on top and cooked it that way. Pretty? No. Tasty? Kind of. Interesting flavor combo? Absolutely. A great inspiration for this Bacon, Vidalia, and Dried Plum relish.