Butterfly has been gardening and preserving food of all kinds for many years, and she thrives on the creativity involved in these processes.
Hardy Fall Fruit
About Wild Plums
There are many varieties of wild plums that grow in different locations, but their taste and performance in recipes is similar enough that I have chosen not to quibble about varieties. Many wild plum trees are robust and hardy, and will bear fruit in even inhospitable areas, in which most other fruit trees succumb—places where drought, high winds, wildlife, and grazing animals can make the health of a fruit tree precarious.
Wild plums, unlike many of their domestic counterparts, are small and tart, about the size of a large grape. They tend to have drier flesh and don't usually cook down into a fine-grained jam or sauce. The pits, or stones, make up about a third of the plums' size, and the skins can be relatively thick. The fruits ripen in September and are easily blown down once they begin to soften.
While there are several nice ways to use wild plums, besides just eating them off the tree, one of my favorites is to can them in a light syrup. Used in this way, they can make the dreariest winter's day seem bright and add a wonderful sparkle to any holiday table. Children and adults alike love them.
- Fresh, wild plums (any variety)
- Boiling water bath or steam canner
- Canning jars (any size), with appropriate lids (I prefer pints for whole wild plums)
- Jar lifter
- Tongs or magnetic lid lifter
- Sauce pot (for boiling syrup)
- Colander (for draining plums)
- Canning funnel (has a wider mouth which fits just inside jar rims)
- Thin bladed knife, needle, or sewing pin (for pricking plums)
Step 1: Prepare Your Equipment
Step 2: Prepare a Light Syrup
A light, or even extra-light, syrup is sufficient for these plums, sweetening them pleasantly, but not making them so loaded that people with sugar sensitivities can't enjoy them. A light syrup is considered to be about 30% sugar and 60% water.
To make a light syrup:
- Put about 5 cups of drinking-quality water in a large sauce pot. Then add about 2 cups of granulated sugar.
- Bring to a boil, and simmer until somewhat thickened.
- Remove from heat once it reaches desired consistency.
If you need more syrup, increase the quantity of water and sugar, keeping the proportions at about 1:2.
Step 3: Wash the Plums
Step 4: Prick the Plums, Pack Into Jars
Step 5: Process Plums in a Boiling Waterbath Canner or Steam Canner
Step 6: Cool and Store Jars
Finding Wild Plums Near You
Questions & Answers
Question: I canned whole, wild plums and a lot of liquid came out of my jars. What did I do wrong?
Answer: I've never noticed this problem with this recipe, though a small amount of loss is normal during boiling...so my guess is you need to tighten the screw bands on the lids a bit more. Also, making the lids extremely tight can warp the lid, and so lead to loss. Lids should be finger tight - snug, but not difficult to turn.
Question: How do you get the pits out of wild plums?
Answer: In this recipe, you don't remove the pits before canning. One normally wouldn't eat more than a few of these at a time, so the pits are taken (or spit) out at the table, similar to eating fresh cherries. If one were to remove pits before packing fruit into jars, this would mush the plums into something more like jam, and detract from the appearance. It would change both texture and flavor somewhat. Pitting wild plums is a time consuming and messy job, best done by cutting each plum with a knife, if firm, or pricking the stem end and squashing the seed out of the flesh, if soft. Much juice is lost this way, particularly if the pits are not taken out over a bowl whose purpose is to catch the juice, then discarded in a different container. If you choose to use this method, wear old clothes, as plum juice stains a poop brown when dry.
Question: Can canned plums be used later in recipes for jelly, sauce, pies, etc? If so, how does the syrup interfere with the recipes?
Answer: You may use canned plums for other things, and I have occasionally done so. Strain most of the syrup out for pies and such, though you can probably use it as part of your recipe for jams and especially jellies; if you keep track of the sugar proportions, which will affect how well these items jell.
Question: Can whole wild plums be stored without freezing?
Answer: Of course. Canning is a traditional storage method which has never relied on freezing to keep foods good.
© 2010 Joilene Rasmussen
Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on August 02, 2020:
Janisa, I'm sure your mother--and you!--will be pleased with the results! You might try spiced wild plums, as well. The article for those can be found through my profile. Btw, I missed your comment, and aplogize for the delay.
Janisa from Earth on June 18, 2020:
I wish I'd seen this article earlier... my mother has a wild plum tree in her backyard and there were literally thousands of little plums last year and she had no idea what to do with them. She made some jams and pies, but unfortunately, the majority of them went to waste.... I'll definitely recommend your canning method to her this year.
Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on August 11, 2019:
Wow, Cindy, what a disappointment! I assume you used name brand canning jars which are fairly new, and a proper waterbath or steam canner with a rack designed to safely hold the jars. When the canner is full, see that the jars do not rub on each other, clink, or bob up and down with the motion of boiling. Any excessive motion could cause jars to weaken and crack. Also, always put hot jars into a hot canner. Cool jars will be likely to crack from the sudden temperature difference.
cindy corvello on July 27, 2019:
Followed the instructions, or so we thought, had a jar break and other jars are close to breaking have juice dripping out the bottom of them, what the heck did we do wrong?! Thanks
Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on April 22, 2015:
I'm not sure what "ornamental" plums are as opposed to other small types. But if they are edible, and taste good to you, I don't see why you shouldn't be able to can them at any stage. In fact, with normal wild plums, their being too soft when they are completely ripe is a bigger concern than too hard. So yours being somewhat hard may help them hold their shape better. The only thing I'd watch out for is how tart or (sometimes) bitter they are, if your plums are not really ripe. They may give you a tummy ache, as will many "green" (immature) fruits. If yours do go soft before you do something with them, the worst that can happen is you wind up with jam instead of whole plums. Just taste your product before you fill your jars, and decide whether to add more sugar, spices, or what you like.
Anyway, have fun with your experiment and remember that it's good to try new things. :-)
Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on September 02, 2010:
Cranberrybrook, I share your excitement! Our plums are not quite ripe yet, but I am looking forward to renewing my supply. I am also looking forward to making Spiced Wild Plums, canned. The ones shown here are good, but the spiced ones are *fabulous*. I have a hub just about ready to go up, showing how to do those, so stay tuned.
cranberrybrook on August 28, 2010:
I am SO excited to try this today!! I have 5 wild plum trees, and didn't want to make 10,000 quarts of preserves or spend $200 on a steam juicer this year! Thanks!
Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on August 13, 2010:
RunAbstract, I am so glad I could be of help! These plums are delicious, so make lots. ;)
RunAbstract from USA on August 12, 2010:
I love that you wrote this article, and gave us such wonderful steps, with pictures! I see tons of wild plums every fall. Now I know just what to do with them! Thank you so much!
Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on March 22, 2010:
You are most welcome. I had much pleasure putting this hub together, because the photos were so cheery. :)
LiftedUp from Plains of Colorado on March 21, 2010:
How beautiful the coloring of those plums! Thanks for this hub.
Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on March 16, 2010:
Thanks so much.
I agree that pictures enhance recipes a great deal. If nothing else, they give you an idea of whether it's something you actually want to eat. :)
Dim Flaxenwick from Great Britain on March 14, 2010:
That was so interesting. It looks delicious.
Putting plenty of pictures on this type of hub is ideal. Thank you. It's not always so easy to follow words alone. Well done and thank you again