Prune Tzimmes

Tina Wasserman
Recipe by
Tina Wasserman

Tzimmes has its origin in medieval Germany, where it was the custom to have meat stews that contained fruit and vegetables. Perhaps the Persian and western Asian culinary habit of using fruits with meat made it up the Rhine. The sugar-beet-growing region of southwestern Poland surely influenced the addition of sugar to the recipe, and the use of sweet potatoes is only a few centuries old, since the sweet potato wasn’t introduced to Eastern Europe from America until the sixteenth century.

1 pound pitted prunes
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 small onion (about 3 inches in diameter), finely diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
4–5 pounds brisket or boneless chuck roast
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 carrots, pared and sliced into 1 1/2-inch chunks
2 sweet potatoes, pared and cut into eighths
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or to taste)
  1. Cover prunes with cold water. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, and let soak for 30 minutes or longer, until soft. 
  2. Heat a large Dutch oven for 20 seconds. Add the oil and heat for another 10 seconds. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until the onion is golden. Do not let the garlic brown or it will become bitter. Add the meat and sear on all sides. The meat probably won’t lie flat; don’t worry, just sear all sides. 
  3. Transfer the meat to a large roasting pan, preferably one with a lid (if not, use heavy-duty foil to cover). Add prunes and soaking water to the meat and bring to a boil on your cooktop. Add salt and pepper. 
  4. Cover roasting pan tightly and transfer to a preheated 300°F oven. Cook the meat for 3–4 hours, depending on the size and thickness of your brisket. 
  5. Remove the meat and prunes from the pan. Put the potato and carrot chunks in the bottom of the pan, and place meat and prunes on top. 
  6. Sprinkle sugar and lemon juice into the gravy. Stir to combine, and cover tightly with lid or heavy-duty foil. 
  7. Place the roasting pan in a 350°F oven for 45–60 minutes or until the meat and potatoes are tender. Adjust the seasonings if necessary. 
  8. Remove the meat and cool, preferably overnight in the refrigerator. 
  9. Slice the meat when it is firm, and return to the vegetables and gravy to reheat. Note: If your meat is small enough to fit into a large Dutch oven or pot, you may cook it on the top of the stove for 2 hours and then proceed to step 5.
Additional Notes
  • A Dutch oven is a large, squat, 4- to 6-quart pot with two small handles.
  • The dull side of the foil should always be facing up when roasting in the oven because the dull side absorbs the heat and helps the roasting process. However, never use the dull side up on a turkey, because it will dry out the white meat—use shiny side up for that.
  • To freeze the vegetables and fruits, remove from the gravy, cool completely and then place in a freezer bag, place a straw in the bag, and close the bag up to the straw. Suck out all the air in the bag and then seal. This will prevent ice crystals in the air from piercing the vegetables and making them soggy. Freeze the gravy in a jar or bag in the same way.