Rebranding the Prune: Dried Plums

by Terry B on January 31, 2007

Dried plums [or prunes, if you must] offer a sweet touch to savory chops. Recipe below.

Prunes have gotten a bad rap. The name alone conjures up visions of old codgers with their waistbands hiked up under their armpits ordering prune danishes from waitresses who call everyone Darlin’ or Hon.

Now that we’ve all figured out that fiber is good and that these babies are loaded with it [not to mention potassium—ounce for ounce, about twice the amount found in bananas], you’d think they would be flying off the shelves at the supermarket. But they’re not because they’re, well, prunes.

The industry is now trying to do something about that. Has been for a few years, in fact. From Sun-Maid to Trader Joe’s, somewhere near the word Prunes on the package, you’ll also find Dried Plums. That’s what they are, after all. And yes, I know that raisins are really dried grapes, but raisins have never suffered from an image problem like prunes. I doubt dried plums will ever completely replace prunes on the label, but I suspect it will continue to become more prominent over time.

This all reminds me of a successful rebranding by a Japanese automaker. Nissan used to sell its cars in North America, Europe, Africa, Australia and New Zealand under the name Datsun. Datsun had been the company’s name originally, even in Japan, but they had switched over to Nissan for the domestic market.

At some point, they decided Nissan should be the name in all markets. To me, it sounded like a difficult task. And a reckless one—they risked pissing away the equity built in the Datsun brand in a lot of markets. They handled it just right, though. First, there was the necessary if somewhat awkward phase of tagging both their product and their advertising with both names: Datsun/Nissan.

But the final move to the name Nissan was brilliant. A simple, assumptive statement delivered in a “we have arrived” kind of voiceover as the Nissan logo appeared sans Datsun at the end of each commercial: “The name is Nissan.” Beautifully done.

So what does this have to do with prunes, er, dried plums? Get over the name—call them dried plums, if that helps. Buy them. Eat them. They’re healthy, quick snacks—five is a single serving, and you don’t have to peel or slice them—and they’re sweet and pretty satisfying between meals. They also add a nice, fruity complexity to this wintry meal.

Pork Chops with Port Sauce
Serves 2 [can be doubled—see Kitchen Notes]

1 cup dried pitted prunes
2 bone-in pork chops, 6 to 8 ounces each, about 3/4″ thick [see Kitchen Notes]
1 large clove garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
3/4 cup port wine
1/4 cup water [see below]
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon each, ground nutmeg, salt

Cooked rice [see Kitchen Notes]

Place prunes in small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand at least 15 minutes.

Pat chops dry with paper towel and season both sides with salt and pepper. Spread minced garlic on one side of chops and press gently to release garlic flavor into the meat [see Kitchen Notes].

Drain prunes, reserving 1/4 cup of liquid. Combine this liquid with half the prunes, the port, oregano, nutmeg and salt in food processor. Process thoroughly.

Gently scrape garlic from chops and reserve. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil to pan and brown chops on one side for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn chops and brown for an additional 2 minutes, reducing heat to medium. Add garlic to pan and stir just until it releases its fragrance, 30 seconds or so.

Pour port wine mixture around chops. Place remaining prunes on top of chops and cover pan, reducing heat to low. Let simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until rice finishes cooking.

Divide chops and rice between two plates and spoon sauce over both. Serve.

Kitchen Notes

Doubling the recipe. I would only increase the port mixture by about half—you don’t want to submerge the chops as they finish cooking.

Flavoring with garlic. Recipes always tell you to rub cut garlic on meat—chops, steaks, chicken—to flavor it. I don’t know about you, but this does nothing for me. Pressing the minced garlic on the meat and letting it just sit there for a while does a much better job. And since you’re cooking it at the end, it doesn’t matter that it was in contact with raw meat.

Bone-in or boneless? Boneless chops like the ones currently marketed as America’s Cut are certainly fine. Easier to eat too—no wrestling with a bone. But chops—well and most cuts of meat—with the bone in them are somehow just more flavorful. If you have a choice, go for chops with bones.

Rice. It plays well with this sauce. Of course, so does pasta—think compact pastas, not linguine or capellini, And so do mashed potatoes. Depends on what you have on hand and have a taste for. In terms of rice, I generally prefer the taste and texture of white rice. But if you like brown rice and its health benefits, Trader Joe’s offers frozen brown rice in pouches that microwave in just three minutes. On the rare occasions I’m in the mood for brown rice, this gets the job done.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Lydia January 31, 2007 at 4:07 am

My all-time favorite recipe with prunes (oops….dried plums) has to be Silver Palate’s Chicken Marbella. An oldie but goodie!

Patricia Scarpin January 31, 2007 at 11:54 am


I love eating prunes as a snack, but I have to be careful not to go on a popcorn rhythm and eat a pound of them.

This dish is new to me – I have never cooked anything savory with prunes, only sweet recipes.

My father is crazy for pork chops, I used to make them for him a lot but only with some onions. I like this sauce you made.

I agree with you about the garlic rubbing thing – that won’t make the flavor stick to meat. It’s like rubbing garlic on a fondue pan before pouring the cheese mixture.

One of our favorite desserts here in Brazil is “manjar branco” – a kind of coconut flan with prune syrup. A very happy combination of flavors.

Carolyn January 31, 2007 at 7:19 pm

How amazing! I was in a rush to get home last night to turn on American Idol. There was nothing in the house except a carton of prunes and some left-over mixed nuts. I didn’t think to try to cook anything; I just alternated mouthfuls, worrying all the time that I should have parceled out the prunes in case I had eaten too many to make it all the way to work the next morning. Thanks for the information about the potassium.

Ronnie Ann January 31, 2007 at 8:58 pm

I laughed the first time I saw “dried plums” on a package of prunes. Like Patricia, it’s one of my favorite snacks. Glad you made them the star of your latest recipe! I can still remember the meat tzimmes we had when I was a kid. Brisket, sweet and regular potatoes, onions, cinnamon, honey, a little lemon, and of course prunes…cooked for what seemed forever until it all just melted together.

Mimi February 1, 2007 at 2:34 am

I have never had an issue with the name prunes, but I think calling them “dried plums” was probably a savvy move.

I am with you on garlic rub and bone-in, Terry B. I could see this with oven-roasted, herby potatoes.

A very well-written post.

Terry B February 2, 2007 at 4:24 pm

Thanks for the great comments. Glad to hear I’m not alone in thinking prunes [dried plums] are good.

Mimi—You’re exactly right about herby roasted potatoes going well with this. They would be perfect. In fact, when I read your comment, I immediately wanted to remake this dinner with those potatoes instead of rice.

And Patricia—I seem to be on a sweet/savory, fruit/pork kick—I cooked up something new last night that I liked so much that it will become next Wednesday’s post.

Susan at Food "Blogga" February 2, 2007 at 4:42 pm

Never underestimate the power of branding, huh?
They can call ’em whatever they want–they’re still good-for-you delicious. Thanks for the wonderful recipe.

P.S. So glad you commented on my blog, ’cause now I found yours.

Shauna February 3, 2007 at 4:58 pm

Just a quick note on Brown Rice: you can cook a pot of brown rice and then freeze however much you want, in whatever size portions you’d like, and then pull it out of the freezer and microwave, all on your own, w/o having to buy it anywhere like Trader Joe’s. (Tho, I did try buying it once myself at Whole Foods, I think. Same taste. )
I forget where I learned this but it works for me!
I’ve also never given up on prunes. They’ve always been around my kithen!
We’re trying the Pork Chops With Port Souce tomorrow nite! Yum!

Laura P. February 16, 2007 at 2:35 am

Here’s another wonderful way to use prunes, with a rich protein and other great flavors — ginger, almonds, pomegranates.


A very tasty dish. Good for a dinner party because it is easily doubled, and you can make it ahead then finish gently on the stove. From “Delights from the Garden of Eden,” by Nawal Nasrallah, as reprinted in the New York Times.

Vegetable oil or nonstick spray
1 1/2 lbs skinless boneless salmon fillets, cut into four equal portions
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 whole almonds, toasted and finely ground
1/2 cup chopped scallions
12 dried prunes, cut in half or quarters
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon pomegranate syrup (not juice)

Preheat broiler.

In a small saucepan, combine honey and mustard. Arrange salmon fillets skinned side down in a lightly greased broiler pan (or if you have one, a pan that can go under the broiler and on the stove) and season with salt and pepper. Brush fish with half of the honey/mustard combination.

Add all the rest of the ingredients plus 1/2 teaspoon salt to remaining honey/mustard mix and stir well.

Broil fish until golden brown on top, about 5 to 7 minutes. While it cooks, place saucepan over medium low heat, bring to a simmer, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer fish if necessary to a stovetop skillet or wide pan, and spread sauce over and around the fillets. [If preparing ahead, stop here. Cover fish and refrigerate.]

Put pan over medium heat on stove. Cover and simmer until sauce is thickened and fish is flaky when you try it with a fork, about 7 to 10 minutes. [If it has been in the fridge, may take a little longer.]

charlotte May 19, 2007 at 3:44 pm

ive eaten too many prunes will i be ok? is there anything that will help me?

Rick Stein January 9, 2009 at 11:24 pm

good luck

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