Plum Preserves

Last year we  cut down our plum-tree because it had taken over our tiny little orchard of fruit trees.  Oh, it was “high maintenance!” An early bloomer, it didn’t do well at this altitude which has such a late freeze date so that every other year or so we had no fruit at all and the years we did, we were totally overwhelmed with it.

A peck basket from the Asheville Farmer's Market

A peck basket from the Asheville Farmer’s Market

But before I decided to cut the tree down, I had spied peck baskets of plums for sale at the Asheville Farmer’s Market, so I knew that I would continue making  plum preserves whether we had had a yield of fruit or not.  Meantime, my apple and cherry trees are doing much better without the plum tree encroaching into their space.  So, it is, as the saying goes, “all good!”

There is nothing to making preserves but a big enough pot for the fruit, sugar, and patience, so there are only two ingredients – plums and sugar, but the proportions are listed in four different measurements.  I made 48 cups which yielded 36 one cup jars.


12 (24) (36) (48) cups of pitted plums

3 (6) (9) (12) cups sugar

Yield:  9, 18, 27, 36 cups


Clean the kitchen sink and fill with water.  Add plums.  Remove plums and clean it again.  Repeat (wash the plumbs twice, in other words)

Place a small plate in your freezer.  You will need it later to proof the preserves.

Cut  each plum in half and in fourths

Cut each plum in half and in fourths

Slice each plum with a paring knife and twist.  The twisting will help loosen the pit.

As you slice the plums, put them in a large measuring cup.

When you have the desired number of cups, place the plums in a heavy non reactive pot and over medium low heat.

When the fruit has cooked down a bit to a uniform mass without so much space between the fruit (about 10 minutes), add the sugar and stir.

As it starts to boil, the mixture will foam

As it starts to boil, the mixture will foam

Raise the temperature to medium and stir the fruit every 5 minutes or so until it begins to bubble.  It will begin to foam when it reaches a boil.

Reduce the heat to a high simmer and continue to stir about every 10 minutes.  You should see a bit of gurgling, bubbling activity, but not much.

Continue to stir deeply and thoroughly every 10 minutes or so for about 3 hours.  The fruit should have lost its individual form, but it won’t be a mush.  You should be able to see what used to be pieces of fruit but they will not be firm.

The fruit should "jell" on the ice-cold plate

The fruit should “jell” on the ice-cold plate

When you feel that the preserves are the consistency you are looking for, take the plate out of the freezer and put a spoonful of preserves on it. The spoonful of preserves  will spread initially but not continue to spread.  It should “jell”.


Heat the jars in the oven

Heat the jars in the oven

I have always heated my jars in boiling water, but recently a friend told me about this method.  It is much easier, so much easier, in fact, that I was afraid it would not be as good, so I consulted my expert (my physician husband – ha, ha) and he declared it “even better and safer” so I am thrilled.

  1. Wash jars and screw tops in hot soapy water.  Rinse well and place on rimmed baking sheets lined with foil.
  2. Place in a cold oven set at 325 degrees.  When that temperature is reached, continue to 10 minutes and then turn off the heat.
  3. Allow the jars to cool enough so that they can be handled.
  4. Meanwhile prepare the lids in a pot of boiling water.
  5. Fill the jars with preserves up to almost 1/2 an inch.
  6. Wipe off tops of jars if needed with a wet paper towel.
  7. Place hot top on the jar, then the screw top.
  8. Place jars in a pressure cooker and process 10 minutes at 6 pounds of pressure. (Add 10 minutes for every 1000 feet above 2000).

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