Ever since Jim’s cancer diagnosis, I have been looking for snacks that are healthy but tasty. Jim particularly enjoys toast and jam, but jam is loaded with sugar. Searching through my recipe files I found a recipe for something called “Prune Breakfast Butter,” and decided to give it a try. The recipe called for one-third cup of sugar, which is nothing compared to the sugar content of jam, but I wanted to see how low sugar-wise I could go. The recipe is straightforward: simmer prunes in tea, puree, and cook the prunes, sugar and flavoring until thick. The tea and other flavorings add complexity to what otherwise is just prunes. I also changed the name to Plum Spread, which sounds more appetizing than Prune Spread, at least to me. Jim has given the spread his seal of approval, but notes that the acid test will come tomorrow when he tries it with peanut butter. But it is a tasty, fruity spread that is incredibly low in sugar. In the future I could see trying this with some nice, ripe peaches, using half peaches and half prunes.
1-3/4 cup boiling water
2 Earl Grey tea bags
1/2 pound (1 cup) pitted prunes
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
the juice of one lemon (about a tablespoon juice)
Combine the boiling water and tea bags in a saucepan; cover and steep for five minutes. Remove tea bags and add prunes. Simmer prunes for about five minutes, or until soft. Allow to cool for about five minutes. Carefully pour mixture into a blender, place a folded dish towel on top of the blender and hold down firmly; process until smooth. (Holding down the lid with the dish towel is just a precaution–blending hot liquids can be hazardous, and this prevents any possible accidents.) Pour the processed mixture back into the saucepan, and mix with the brown sugar, lemon rind and the lemon juice. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring frequently until mixture is thick and jam-like. This will make about one cup of plum spread. Pour into a washed and dried recycled jar, and store in the refrigerator.
You can also pour the processed mixture into a Pyrex bowl and microwave until thickened. This will take 12 minutes, stopping to stir the mixture four times. I covered the bowl with plastic wrap when I tried this, but nearly scalded myself when I took the wrap off. In my microwave the mixture didn’t bubble up over the bowl, so I recommend trying it without the wrap. Microwaves vary, so experiment a little first.
Note: The original recipe used 1/3 cup white sugar. Prunes are naturally sweet, and I used the dark brown sugar just to add depth to the flavor. You can also use light brown sugar. Trying a different tea, such as herbal blackberry could be fun. The lemon rind and juice add a tang to the spread, which I otherwise found rather bland. The original recipe also called for 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, but to me this created a sauce, rather than a tangy, jam-like spread for toast.
For more low-sugar recipes, check out my Oct. 17 post on Sweet Potato Muffins, and the Jan. 11 post on macrobiotic cookies. Why my interest in low sugar recipes? In my readings on diet and cancer, I have found that cancer cells love sugar. So this natural fruit spread will help Jim and me kick the sugar habit.