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How to Make Plum Jam

Homemade plum jam is a summer treat to make then enjoy throughout the year. I’ve gotten back into canning mode around here and this plum jam recipe was a delicious way to preserve summer’s fresh fruit. Let’s learn how to make plum jam together.
Plum jam in lovely mason jar on a white tray with burgundy napkin

Plums can be overlooked as a jam flavor option. In the grocery store you’ll find strawberry jam, grape jelly, orange-lemon marmalade and maybe something a little off the beaten path like apricot jam.

But plums? Not usually an option. Therefore it is best to make your plum jam at home. Once you try it you’ll want to repeat it each year when plums are in season. This is one of my favorite jam recipes.

If you are new to canning and preserving fruit at home, check out my category of canning recipes and canning basics to get you started. You’ll find more small batch jam recipes there.

The recipe for plum jam is simple and comes from a beautiful book produced by Williams-Sonoma called The Art of Preserving.  The photos are gorgeous and many of the jams and jellies are accompanied by recipe ideas which is a very useful effort on the part of the book’s authors, Rick Field, Lisa Atwood, and Rebecca Courchesne.

If you are looking for plum jelly, the differences are minimal. The main difference between jam and jelly is that jam usually starts with fresh (or frozen) fruit while jelly begins with fruit juice.

If you cook the fruit down in this recipe to nearly a puree and do not leave any chunky bits, it will taste like plum jelly even though we’ve started with fresh plums.

How to make Plum Jam without Pectin

Plums are an ideal fruit for making jams because the skin is left on the fruit. You can skip the fussy step of removing the skin; it, in fact, holds a lot of the pectin in the fruit which helps the jam to gel.

You might ask, What is pectin? Pectin is a substance found naturally in some fruits that when heated with sugar, it helps a jam thicken. Click here to read a post that explains What is Pectin? in more detail.

Are plums high in pectin? Some fruits are high in pectin and others are not. Therefore, some canning recipes call for adding pectin. For this plum jam recipe, no additional pectin is needed. Plums are a fruit considered to have a medium amount of pectin. 

Plum cut in half with bowl of plums in background

Steps to make easy plum jam recipe

Set yourself up for canning success by having the basic canning supplies. Read more about canning supplies in this post.

The basics for making jam: Wash and cut the plums in half. Remove the pits. Cut the plums into chunks. What a stunning color!

Do you have to remove the skin of plums for making jam? No, you don’t need to remove the skin of plums to make jam. The peel is thin AND it holds some of the pectin of the fruit. 

plums washed, pitted, and cit into chunks for making plum jam recipe

Next,  add the sugar to your plum slices.  This looks like a lot of sugar because, well,  it IS a lot of sugar. 

One of the few pitfalls of making jam at home is that you can no longer pretend that a bit of jam on top of your whole wheat bread each morning might be healthy. Nope, you now possess the knowledge that you dredged your fresh fruit in a sugar bath. But that is ok, the result is delicious. Just go with it.

Sugar added to plums while making plum jam recipe

Put the plum and sugar mixture into a large saucepan and add the lemon juice and water. The recipe stated fresh lemon juice but I recall learning along the way that bottled lemon juice has a more consistent pH level and it is best to use bottled when canning so that is what I did with this plum jam.

Plums boiling in sauce pan making plum jam recipe

Cook your fruit and sugar mixture, bringing the jam to a full rolling boil then stirring for 15-20 minutes. (The recipe called for 10 minutes but my jam was not to the right stage at that point. It may be due to my altitude in Denver.) This recipe doesn’t require any additional fruit pectin.

Use a canning thermometer to track progress towards gelling point making plum jam

Use a canning thermometer to make sure that your plum jam has reached its gelling point, then remove it from the heat, ladled it into the prepared jars and continued with the canning process if desired.

use a canning kit to make plum jam

Follow the usual procedure for canning when using a water bath canner: prepare and sterilize your jars and lids. Process the jars according to your altitude. 

It takes a lot of time to bring a large pot of water to the boiling point. Plan ahead and get your boiling water-bath started before you heat up the plum mixture. You want to time things such that your water-bath is ready when you have filled the jars.

Process the jam then let the jars cool completely before moving them. They will be hot!

Do you know your elevation? If you live above 1,000 ft then you’ll need to make adjustments to your processing time. Learn more about high altitude canning in this post.

Is Plum Jam the same thing as Plum Jelly?

By definition jam is made from fresh (or frozen) fruit while jelly is made starting with fruit juice. Often jelly recipes will have a step in which the mixture is strained through a cheesecloth so that the resulting jelly is smooth and free of any small bits of fruit. 

I think making plum jam and plum jelly would be quite similar. The jam is very smooth and free of chunks of plums even though there is not a need to use a blender or hand-held immersion blender to puree the mixture. Plums break down naturally and very easily in the cooking process which creates a uniform result. 

The same holds true for grapes. Here is a recipe that makes homemade grape jelly.

How to use Plum Jam

Plum jam is recommended to be used as a topping for vanilla ice cream or as a complement to pork.  I plan to try both. And you can’t go wrong slathering plum jam on a fresh piece of homemade bread, of course! Try plum jam in the middle of these jam sandwich cookies

What is freezer plum jam?

This isn’t a recipe for freezer plum jam but I am interested in trying that technique.

Freezer jam isn’t simply homemade jam that you store in the freezer, as I once thought. Instead making freezer jam refers to the process where you do not cook the fruit. Instead, you combine fruit with sugar at room temperature, let it sit (similar to macerating berries) then you add pectin that has been heated with water. 

You can store freezer jam in the refrigerator or the freezer.

What to do with lots of plums?

There are so many ways to use plums and plum jam! Here’s a post all about plum jam uses. Here are more plum recipes you’ll enjoy:

Yield: 4 half pints

Plum Jam Recipe

Plum Jam Recipe

Easy, homemade plum canning recipe

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs plums, halved, pitted and quartered
  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Instructions

Wash and cut the plums into chunks, removing the pits.

Combine the plums, water, lemon juice and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar, stirring continuously.

Continue to stir for 15-20 minutes, or until the gelling point has been reached.

Remove from the heat and ladle into glass mason jars. Proceed with the boiling water canning method, if desired. If not, store the plum jam in the refrigerator.

Notes

I processed this jam for 15 minutes (altitude in Denver requires a longer processing time) but in many locations 10 minutes would be the standard.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

60

Serving Size:

1 tablespoon

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 49Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 0gSugar: 12gProtein: 0g

This nutrition data was provided by Nutrionix and is to be an estimate only.

Did you make this recipe?

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Please note that this post was originally published in August, 2012, and was updated in September, 2018.

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Marilyn

Tuesday 4th of August 2020

I just made tons of jam with your recipe. Added a little more sugar because of tartness. I also threw in two cinnamon sticks and a little vanilla. Didn’t have pectin but did have powdered gelatin. Believe it or not it’s delicious. The lemon was key. Thanks

Holly Baker

Tuesday 4th of August 2020

Thanks so much for your comment! I like the idea of cinnamon and vanilla. Sounds like a dessert combination I'd love with the plums.

jan

Monday 3rd of August 2020

I made this and it looks great. We haven't eaten it yet. I am wondering how long it can last in the refrigerator? We don't eat a lot of jam so hopefully it can last a long time.

Holly Baker

Tuesday 4th of August 2020

Hi, Most jams will last a month or two in the refrigerator and up to six months in the freezer. Enjoy!

Rebekah Teubner

Sunday 2nd of August 2020

From experience I knew that this jam mixture needed to be cooked for much longer. I also added figs, bits of leftover jams from the fridge (apricot and cherry) and cut the lemon juice to 1/3 cup. Skipped the water and just let the fruit sit in the sugar for 30-45 minutes before heating. Brought it to a boil over low heat then used a potato masher to break the plums and figs up. Kept it on low heat and slow boil for about an hour before turning the heat up and doing the 15 minute hard boil before placing in jars.

Theresa Craddick

Sunday 26th of July 2020

I made your jam recipe. So easy. How long is it cook if just in the fridge and why can't you freeze it?

Holly Baker

Tuesday 4th of August 2020

Cook for for the same amount of time until you reach the gel point stage even if you are going to refrigerate the jam. I haven't frozen my jam but have read that you can freeze jam for up to six months. Enjoy!

Louise

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

Thanks for this jam recipe. I'm going to make it this week. I never add pectin to any of my jams. You just need to be patient and cook it longer without pectin. Also, when adding pectin, recipes call for almost twice the amount of sugar versus cooking without it. And the cold plate test works well to determine if it sat the right stage.

Holly Baker

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

Thanks for your comment and your advice. All the best!