In addition to the wild plums I jammed, we also canned 14 pounds of domesticated plums, in this case, Italian prune plums. You can tell from my very purple hands that chronologically, the plums came in mid-September, just after we finished canning grape jelly; my mom and I were already exhausted at that point, and the only reason we took on the plums was because my sweet father requested them repeatedly.
Before I delved back into the canning pot, however, I used a few of the plums to make a plum cake for our community garden harvest potluck, using Dorie Greenspan’s recipe. I actually didn’t even get to taste the result, as I spent most of the potluck chasing my little guy around and the last slice or two were designated for Nolan’s snacks (he is apparently a big fan of plum cake, plums notwithstanding—we never can tell with that kiddo!). From what I was told, though, it was delicious.
Getting on with the canning, I put up 14 pints of pitted plum halves in honey syrup, half flavored with cinnamon and half with allspice. This was quite a project since I ended up doing all of it on my own, but it was a good thing that I decided to halve the plums instead of canning them whole, because some of them were on the green side, others were definitely over-ripe and a few were starting to spoil. The firmer plums were raw-packed, lending the honey syrup a gorgeous magenta hue by the time they finished processing; I reserved the over-ripe specimens for a small batch of jam, and the spoilers naturally went in the compost bin.
After days of standing over the stove canning honeyed plums, grape juice, jelly, jam, and syrup, I was pretty dead on my feet by the time I got the plum jam going. The pitted halves went in my biggest pot with some sugar, lemon, and some Christmassy spices; they simmered until they burst and began to reduce, and I added a little powdered pectin to help the set since they were pretty darn ripe. But it seemed to take forever to reach the gelling point, and I took my eyes off the pot for a few minutes to run some pasta dough through the roller for dinner. Next thing I knew, my mom was asking what was burning. In the end, only the bottom of the pot got scorched (so much so that my dad ended up having to remove the burned matter with a razor) and we decided that the jam didn’t taste too burnt, so I went ahead and canned it anyway. Time will tell if it was worth that final step, I suppose!
1 1/2 C honey
4 C water
enough plums to fill 7 pint jars
Cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, star anise, or allspice berries, enough to tuck a little something into each jar
In a medium saucepan, combine the honey and water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, halve and pit the plums (or leave them whole if you want to use quart jars).
Pack the plums into sterilized jars as tightly as you can. Insert your flavoring agent, if using. Top jars with honey syrup, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.
Wipe rims to remove all traces of any spilled honey syrup, apply sterilized lids and tighten rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes (starting time when the pot returns to a boil after the jars have been placed inside).
When processing time is up, remove the jars to a cutting board or towel-lined countertop (as they cool and seal, they might spit out a bit of sticky syrup, so donâ€™t let them cool on any surface that canâ€™t handle that). Let the jars cool undisturbed for 24 hours.
When jars are completely cool, remove the rings, check the seals and wipe the jars down to remove any sticky residue. Label and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
Source: Slightly adapted from Food in Jars.