How to Make and Can Wild Plum Jam With Photo Guide

Updated on June 14, 2019
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Butterfly has been gardening and preserving food of all kinds for many years, and she thrives on the creativity involved in these processes.

Ripe Wild Plums

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 This Jam

Wild plum jam is tart, chunky, robust, and homey. It is best on sturdy, crusty breads 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.

Limitations

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)

Ingredients

  • 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
Cranberries
Parsley or Cilantro
Basil
Rosemary
Mandarin oranges
Lemon zest, juice, or chopped fruit
Orange zest, juice, or chopped fruit

Step 1: Pit the Plums

Using a sharp paring knife, slit open each plum, making a whole through which you can squeeze the seed.
Using a sharp paring knife, slit open each plum, making a whole through which you can squeeze the seed.
You may have to cut the plums nearly in half, as the seeds are designed to stick tight, so they can ferment in the dropped fruit and plant themselves.
You may have to cut the plums nearly in half, as the seeds are designed to stick tight, so they can ferment in the dropped fruit and plant themselves.
Peel apart the plum halves, or "shoot" the seed into a bowl. Be careful or wear old clothes, as plum juice stains a poop brown.
Peel apart the plum halves, or "shoot" the seed into a bowl. Be careful or wear old clothes, as plum juice stains a poop brown.
The pits will account for about 1/3 of the total volume of fruit, so pick your crop with this in mind.
The pits will account for about 1/3 of the total volume of fruit, so pick your crop with this in mind.

Step 2: Make the Jam

Place the pitted plums in a saucepan, kettle, or stock pot. You can make any amount of jam you like, but a deeper pot requires more stirring and is apt to stick. Two shallow pots are better than one huge one. Add water as necessary. Use low heat.
Place the pitted plums in a saucepan, kettle, or stock pot. You can make any amount of jam you like, but a deeper pot requires more stirring and is apt to stick. Two shallow pots are better than one huge one. Add water as necessary. Use low heat.
Add sugar to taste. 1/3 to 1/2 the volume of plums is average. Add any spices you wish along with the sugar, and stir thoroughly, mushing the plums with a wooden spoon. Use lid as required to build heat.
Add sugar to taste. 1/3 to 1/2 the volume of plums is average. Add any spices you wish along with the sugar, and stir thoroughly, mushing the plums with a wooden spoon. Use lid as required to build heat.
Simmer slowly until the consistency you like is reached. If you prefer a thick jam, depending on the dryness of the fruit, you may put your pot in a low oven to evaporate for several hours. The jam will be less likely to burn or stick to the bottom.
Simmer slowly until the consistency you like is reached. If you prefer a thick jam, depending on the dryness of the fruit, you may put your pot in a low oven to evaporate for several hours. The jam will be less likely to burn or stick to the bottom.

How Long to Cook?

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.

Preparing Equipment

Wash (sterilize if necessary) and examine all jars (chips, cracks), rings (bent, excessive rust), and lids (misaligned rubber).
Wash (sterilize if necessary) and examine all jars (chips, cracks), rings (bent, excessive rust), and lids (misaligned rubber).
Gently simmer the lids (don't boil!), or set them in a cake tin and pour on boiling water to cover, to scald them.
Gently simmer the lids (don't boil!), or set them in a cake tin and pour on boiling water to cover, to scald them.

Prepare Your Canning Jars and Canning Equipment

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 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* F. 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.

Set the jars aside to dry.

Have ready the number or rings and lids you estimate you will need, and wash them.

How to Can: Photo Guide

Ladle jam into jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Wipe rims absolutely clean, then adjust two-piece caps finger-tight.
Ladle jam into jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Wipe rims absolutely clean, then adjust two-piece caps finger-tight.
Place in a canner rack or place each in the canner with a jar lifter.
Place in a canner rack or place each in the canner with a jar lifter.
Lift rack into canner, being careful of steam burns or boiling water splashes.
Lift rack into canner, being careful of steam burns or boiling water splashes.
Process 20 minutes for pints and smaller jars, and 25 for quarts. Count from the time the water comes back to a rolling boil after all jars are in.
Process 20 minutes for pints and smaller jars, and 25 for quarts. Count from the time the water comes back to a rolling boil after all jars are in.
Lift out jars with a jar lifter onto a heat-resistant surface away from drafts. Cool thoroughly. Lids may "ping" as they seal.
Lift out jars with a jar lifter onto a heat-resistant surface away from drafts. Cool thoroughly. Lids may "ping" as they seal.
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.

Creatively Using Wild Plum Jam

 
 
 
Pies (won't be very juicy!)
Pastries
Cakes
Quick Breads
Braided Yeast Breads
Muffins
Dumplings (potato or other)
Meat Sauces or Relishes
Wines
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.

September Plum Harvest

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Wild plums will form thickets, if allowed to live without much interference. This cultivated row is on its way to being a thicket.Wild plums come in a variety of jewel-tones, including ruby red......amber gold, or jacinth or citrine yellow. The branches can be prickly or a bit thorny, so consider wearing long sleeves.It's allowed to snack as you pick. The plums should be soft, juicy, and have a sweet burst followed by a puckery sensation. If they are hard or all tart, they are unripe.
Wild plums will form thickets, if allowed to live without much interference. This cultivated row is on its way to being a thicket.
Wild plums will form thickets, if allowed to live without much interference. This cultivated row is on its way to being a thicket.
Wild plums come in a variety of jewel-tones, including ruby red...
Wild plums come in a variety of jewel-tones, including ruby red...
...amber gold, or jacinth or citrine yellow. The branches can be prickly or a bit thorny, so consider wearing long sleeves.
...amber gold, or jacinth or citrine yellow. The branches can be prickly or a bit thorny, so consider wearing long sleeves.
It's allowed to snack as you pick. The plums should be soft, juicy, and have a sweet burst followed by a puckery sensation. If they are hard or all tart, they are unripe.
It's allowed to snack as you pick. The plums should be soft, juicy, and have a sweet burst followed by a puckery sensation. If they are hard or all tart, they are unripe.

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Joilene Rasmussen

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