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How to Make Whole Spiced Wild Plums: An Illustrated Guide

Butterfly has been gardening and preserving food of all kinds for many years, and she thrives on the creativity involved in these processes.

Red wild plums in their prime, ready for eating.

Red wild plums in their prime, ready for eating.

This row of plum bushes was planted on purpose. Wildlife adore both the fruit and the cover.

This row of plum bushes was planted on purpose. Wildlife adore both the fruit and the cover.

Heavenly Wild Plums

Preserved whole wild plums may be used as a dessert, side dish, or in a relish tray. There are several recipe variations for preserving them, and I'm about to show you my favorite.

This recipe is time-consuming, but it's not complicated. It takes three days to produce this delectable treat. Most of this time is spent waiting for them to soak in spices and sugar. This fruit is worth the extra effort. Each piece looks like a jewel and is practically glacéd. You will have trouble keeping out of it, once you open a properly matured, finished jar.

Ingredients and Supplies

  • Fresh wild plums, any variety
  • Spices and sugar (ground cinnamon, allspice, and cloves)
  • White vinegar
  • 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
  • Saucepot, for boiling syrup
  • Colander, for draining plums
  • Ladle
  • Canning funnel (has a wide mouth which fits just inside jar rims)
  • Thin-bladed knife, needle, sewing pin, or dinner fork (for pricking plums)
  • Crock, or large bowl (glass or stainless steel), for soaking plums

Step 1: Wash Fresh Wild Plums and Drain

Wash plums gently in water to remove dust, sap, leaves, and other matter.

Wash plums gently in water to remove dust, sap, leaves, and other matter.

Drain briefly in a colander.

Drain briefly in a colander.

Step 2: Prick Plums and Place in Crock

Prick each plum in two or more places to prevent them from bursting when heated. Place plums in a crock or bowl.

Prick each plum in two or more places to prevent them from bursting when heated. Place plums in a crock or bowl.

Step 3: Prepare Syrup

In a large pot, combine, per 4 quarts of wild plums:

  • 6 cups of sugar (don't skimp in this recipe)
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar, 4-6% acidity
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, or 4 whole cloves

Boil all together 5 minutes. Pour syrup over plums in the crock, and let stand 24 hours. Drain syrup off plums, reheat, and pour over plums once again, to stand another 24 hours.

The syrup will surround, but not cover, the plums. Stir them once or twice a day.

The syrup will surround, but not cover, the plums. Stir them once or twice a day.

Step 4: Prepare Jars

Wash (sterilize if necessary) and examine all jars (chips, cracks), rings (bent, excessive rust), and lids (misaligned rubber). Heat boiling waterbath canner, about two-thirds full of water for a full load.

Wash (sterilize if necessary) and examine all jars (chips, cracks), rings (bent, excessive rust), and lids (misaligned rubber). Heat boiling waterbath canner, about two-thirds full of water for a full load.

Either gently simmer the lids (don't boil!), or set them in a small pan and pour on boiling water to cover, to scald them.

Either gently simmer the lids (don't boil!), or set them in a small pan and pour on boiling water to cover, to scald them.

Step 5: Pack Plums Into Jars and Process in Boiling Water Bath Canner

On the third day, drain and set aside syrup in a saucepan. Heat the syrup to boiling. Pack the plums into jars to within 1/2" of the rims (1/2" headspace).

Canning Process

Using a canning funnel, if desired, ladle hot syrup into hot jars, leaving 1/2" headspace.

Using a canning funnel, if desired, ladle hot syrup into hot jars, leaving 1/2" headspace.

Remove air bubbles; wipe jar rims with a clean cloth or paper towel. Adjust two-piece caps finger-tight.

Remove air bubbles; wipe jar rims with a clean cloth or paper towel. Adjust two-piece caps finger-tight.

Filled jars are ready to go into your canner.

Filled jars are ready to go into your canner.

Lift rack into canner carefully, or place jars in one at a time with a jar lifter. Water should be at a hard boil, covering jars by about 1 inch.

Lift rack into canner carefully, or place jars in one at a time with a jar lifter. Water should be at a hard boil, covering jars by about 1 inch.

Wait for water to come back to a rolling boil before you start timing 15 minutes (at 5,000' elevation), for pints or half-pints. Quarts process for 20 minutes.

Wait for water to come back to a rolling boil before you start timing 15 minutes (at 5,000' elevation), for pints or half-pints. Quarts process for 20 minutes.

Using a jar lifter, remove jars to a heat-resistant and draft free surface. (Use a towel for most surfaces.)

Using a jar lifter, remove jars to a heat-resistant and draft free surface. (Use a towel for most surfaces.)

As jars seal, the lids may "ping". Cool thoroughly or overnight. Refrigerate or reprocess any unsealed jars. Rinse and store in a dry, dark, cool place.

As jars seal, the lids may "ping". Cool thoroughly or overnight. Refrigerate or reprocess any unsealed jars. Rinse and store in a dry, dark, cool place.

How Did Your Plums Turn Out?

Questions & Answers

Question: Is this syrup recipe correct, 6 cups of sugar to 1 cup of vinegar with no water?

Answer: This syrup coats the plums more than directly soaking them, and works well when used correctly. The plums give off enough juice to make up the difference, and adding water will result in a sloppy mess.

© 2010 Joilene Rasmussen

Comments

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on August 10, 2020:

The plums should be just fine. Sorry didn't see this question sooner; I hope you went ahead with your plans.

Linda O'Dell on August 06, 2020:

I have simply left plums in cold water for about 20 hours to clean them ... with nothing added ... they tasted like plums last night but now they're a bit tart ... are they ok to eat please ... thank you

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on November 04, 2019:

Yes, and it works if used correctly.

Ryan on November 01, 2019:

I'm curious if this syrup recipe of 6 cups of sugar to 1 cup of vinegar is correct with no water added?

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on July 24, 2017:

Deena, you should cover the crock with a tea towel or something similar, but a lid proper is not necessary.

Deena on July 23, 2017:

Do I put on a lid for the 24 hours?

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on January 23, 2015:

Dawn,

Somehow I missed your comment. I don't know how. I have checked comments reasonably often, so don't know how it didn't show up. Obviously, I am too late to help you with your syrup problem this time, but if it happens again, it is OK to not boil the syrup as long, or to thin it out to the desired consistency with a dribble of hot water.

Making syrup for canned fruits is not an exact science, and you can use your best judgment about when a syrup is ready. Personal experience will tell you whether you prefer a thicker or thinner syrup, and either one is not likely to make or break your fruit quality. Keep in mind that a higher ratio of sugar to water will produce a thicker syrup, and less sugar to water will produce a thinner syrup.

Dawn McKinney on July 22, 2014:

I followed this recipe to the letter, and am really concerned about the syrup being so thick! It was almost as if it got really close to the soft ball stage while boiling. I'm wondering if the syrup will thin out as it sits? How will I have enough to heat up 2x more? I am hot bathing the regular ones now, and they are looking lovely! But the spiced ones have me worried..

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on November 29, 2012:

Sorry, Spunkychick, somehow I missed your comment. Thoughts...over-ripe fruit? A different sugar level in the mature fruit? Regular wild plums don't have much sugar, you know. Your syrup color shouldn't matter a lot...it just means the specific qualities of your plums are different from mine, and they bled more easily. Were the insides of your plums red? Mine tend to be yellow or at least, light colored. So, don't be discouraged. Do they taste good now?

spunkychick2 on September 18, 2012:

I started mine last night....a hybrid wild prune plum (and something else)....i pricked mine 2-3 times with needle -- a bunch have split and the skins are coming off. the syrup is a dark red colour - not clear like yours. also i had to can mine after only 24 hours -- because of fruit flies i had to keep my crock covered and i was afraid they would ferment in 3 days. any thoughts???

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on August 29, 2012:

Julia, it should work just fine, I think. I assume you bought domestic, as opposed to wild, plums. Domestic plums are bigger, and also sweeter, so you'll want to keep that in mind when preparing your syrup. Wild plums can be quite sour.

Julia on August 10, 2012:

Question - can I use store-bought plums? I purchased a great big sack of them yesterday for just a few bucks and would love to try this! They're a little bigger....

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on September 09, 2010:

LiftedUp, I know what you mean about keeping out of the crock! The plums are practically candied. :) But you're right - they are very much worth having at holidays. Of course, it is a very good early springtime treat to take a jar out under the blossoming apple tree, and share it with my children. The sunlight and long-awaited warmth make them taste even better.

LiftedUp from Plains of Colorado on September 05, 2010:

I have 6 quart jars and 6 pint jars full of spiced plums on the table, still cooling. It is hard to keep out of the crock once all the ingredients are in, let alone out of the jars once they are finished! But oh, the plums look beautiful and delectable in a glass dish on a holiday table.

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on September 03, 2010:

Ivorwen, do you suppose you could take some seeds back with you when next you visit? Maybe they don't grow because nobody planted any. I'm sure they would be a welcome addition to your area. :)

The wild plum trees that Dad put in at the pasture corner almost 20 years ago have grown into a dreadful thicket. You have to pretend you're Prince Philip ("Sleeping Beauty") slashing through the thorns to harvest the fruit. But it's worth it. The plums in the other tree rows didn't do well this year.

Ivorwen from Hither and Yonder on September 03, 2010:

Those are so pretty in the jars, and I love canned plumbs. Too bad they don't grow around here -- at least I haven't come across any yet!