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How to Make and Can Wild Plum Jam With Photo Guide

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

Wild plums look like jewels. During dreary days, they are a cheery addition to any table.

Wild plums look like jewels. During dreary days, they are a cheery addition to any table.

What's Good About Wild Plum Jam

Wild plum jam is tart, chunky, robust, and homey. It is best on sturdy, crusty bread or as a layer in cheesecakes or eggy bread dishes, such as French toast bakes or baked pancakes (Dutch babies or German pancakes). It holds its own against other flavors in a meal.

It also lends itself well to a variety of spice variations, which means that you can blend a jam to suit your tastes and purposes . . . as long as you like it tart.


You should be aware that it is generally a "dry" jam, unless you puree it into more of a fruit butter . . . which can be tedious to do, as these fruits hold together pretty stubbornly.

Wild plums have developed so they will stand up to adverse conditions, in nature and in the kitchen, and please be aware that you cannot interchange it with regular, domestic plum jams. The texture is courser, the fruit much more tart, and the appearance more rustic.

Basic Equipment

  • Bucket for harvesting plums
  • Large saucepan or small stock pot
  • Spoon, wooden or stainless preferred
  • Canning jars or freezer cartons, whatever size you prefer
  • Canning equipment, optional (see below)


  • Any amount wild plums, pitted and halved
  • 1/3 total volume sugar or sweetener of your choice, or more to taste
  • Small amount of water to start cooking process
  • Spices such as cinnamon, cloves, or curry, to taste (optional)

Pleasant Additions to Wild Plum Jam

Cinnamon, sweet or strong

Cloves, ground or whole

Lavender buds or flavoring

Curry, sweet or hot

Chilies or jalapenos

Cayenne pepper

Raisins, yellow or dark

Chopped dried apricots


Parsley or Cilantro



Mandarin oranges

Lemon zest, juice, or chopped fruit

Orange zest, juice, or chopped fruit

How Long Does It Cook For?

Some recipes recommend cooking your plums rapidly for about 15 minutes, which will cause them almost to gel, as they have quite a bit of natural pectin. This is a suitable method for small batches of plums, say, 5 to 8 cups of fruit. If you do this, stir often!

If your plums are quite firm-fleshed, however, or you are making large batches, you may want to opt for a slower cooking process--especially at first--and finish up at a rapid boil, stirring most of the time.

Thirdly, if you opt to use the oven method, which is slow but requires less stirring and may save you anxiety with a big batch, you can count on 2–4 hours of cooking in a slow oven (200 to 250 °F.), stirring only occasionally.

Whether to Freeze or Can Your Wild Plum Jam

Freezing is easier, and is a medium-term storage solution. But canning is a longer-term solution. It requires more time and effort initially, but doesn't leave you forever juggling containers of jam in your freezer.

If you wish to freeze your plums, simply ladle into freezer cartons, label carefully with product name, spice variations, and date, then place in a level area in a single layer in your freezer until containers are completely frozen. After that, you may transfer or stack them as you wish. Below, I will show you how to can your jam in a waterbath or steam canner.

Quick Reference for Canning Wild Plum Jam

  • Processing/cooking time: 20 minutes for pints or half-pints, 25 for quarts (after a rolling boil is reached with all jars in place)
  • Overall time per full canner load: 40–50 minutes (from filling jars to removing them from canner). This time estimate is for a waterbath canner. A steam canner may be quicker.
  • Jar size: Half-pints pints, either wide or regular mouth; quarts, either wide or regular mouth
  • Storage term: 1+ years normally (depends on storage conditions, such as humidity)

Canning Equipment

Have ready all of your equipment (clean, of course), except jars, such as:

  • Waterbath or steam canner, or stock pot.
  • Wooden spoon or ladle for filling jars, depending on the thickness of your jam
  • Canning funnel (has a wider mouth than normal funnel), usually optional but may save you mess
  • Tongs or a magnetic lid lifter
  • Clean, damp cloth(s) or paper towels, for wiping jar rims once they are filled with product
  • Jar lifter, for lifting the hot jars in and out of the canner
  • Canning jars, pints, half-pints, or quarts (please do not use regular "recycled" jars, which are of a lower quality, and are apt to break)
  • Canning lids of an appropriate size(s)
  • Cake tin or saucepan, for scalding canning lids
  • Vinegar (optional), for adding to canner water to avoid hard-water stains
  • A clean towel and an out-of-the-way, heat resistant surface on which to set the jars once they are finished (we use a bath towel, as we often process many jars)

Once everything is in readiness, you can proceed to wash and fill your jars.

Step 3: Can the Jam

  1. Prepare canning equipment. Fill canner and begin heating. Thoroughly wash jars or sterilize in a dishwasher. Simmer lids in a saucepan or place in a cake tin and pour boiling water over to cover. Make sure canning funnel, tongs or lid lifter, jar lifter, and lid rings are in order.
  2. Using a ladle and canning funnel, if you wish, fill jars with hot jam to within 1/4" of rims. Wipe rims with a clean cloth or paper towel to remove any bits of juice or pulp. Place two-piece caps on finger-tight.
  3. Place jars in a steam or boiling waterbath canner. Process from when the water comes to a rolling boil. Pints and half-pints need to boil for 20 minutes, quarts for 25. If you use a lot of sugar, as in more than half the total volume, you can cut the time for half-pints down to 15 minutes.
  4. Cool jars on a heat-resistant surface overnight or until cool. Lids may "ping" as they cool. Refrigerate or reprocess any unsealed jars, using new lids. Store in a cool, dark place.

Prepare Your Canning Jars and Canning Equipment

Select Your Canning Jars

Select only proper, brand-name canning jars. (Pints or half-pints usually work best for this project. You can decide if you'd rather use wide mouth or regular tops, however.) Inspect them for chips, cracks, or other weaknesses. (A regular jar, such as a pickle jar, might not be able to take the heat and pressure during this process, and may break.)

Wash Each Jar

Wash each jar thoroughly in hot, soapy water, paying special attention to the threads around the top, and the bottoms of the jars on the inside, especially if they have been used before. You may also prepare them in an automatic dishwasher, or by sterilizing in an oven. 200 ºF for 20 minutes per batch is a general rule. If your jars have been stored in a basement or outbuilding in which vermin have been allowed to run, you would be wise to soak them in water to which a bit of chlorine has been added.

Let Them Dry

Set the jars aside to dry. Have ready the number or rings and lids you estimate you will need, and wash them.

The color and texture of your jam will vary according to the plums you use, and how tough their skins are. Store in a dry, dark place.

The color and texture of your jam will vary according to the plums you use, and how tough their skins are. Store in a dry, dark place.

Did All Your Jars Seal?

If you find after pressing on the cooled lids that not all of your jam jars sealed, you may either refrigerate the unsealed one(s), or reprocess them, using new lids.

Creative Uses for Wild Plum Jam

The ways in which you can use wild plum jam are many. You are limited primarily by the fruit's extreme tartness (similar to a cranberry), and its "dry" flesh.

Pies (won't be very juicy!)



Quick Breads

Braided Yeast Breads


Dumplings (potato or other)

Meat Sauces or Relishes


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Joilene Rasmussen