Sunday, July 14, 2013

Preserving American Plums in Honey Sauce

Two jars of canned plums, one open and dished out
Serve Now or in Winter

Happy Girl Kitchen

As recently as last week I’d never heard of an American plum, also known as a wild plum. But according to locals, we have one in our yard. “Prunus americana is over these (Santa Cruz) mountains!” said an old timer at the nursery. In the few years we’ve been here, fruit has been tiny, red, and not edible-looking, and the tree’s identity mystified even our arborist friend. This year, after pruning by said arborist, branches are heavy with small, yellow, tangy plums. Because of its placement, right beside a fence post and snuggled up too close to a parking spot, hubby Bruce suspects the tree is a volunteer. According to folks at the nursery, the American plum volunteers readily throughout the central and eastern US as well in these coastal mountains. What could be better than a fruit-producing volunteer, even if we need to move a parking spot?

Pouring Honey Sauce into Jars of Plums
Because of the fruit’s small size and tart flavor component, I experimented with adapting Seasonal Eating’s most popular recipe, Berries in Light Honey Sauce, to accommodate the plums. I’d already made Cherries in Honey Sauce. Like cherries, American plums are too small to cut up and preserve; however they are small enough to stone with a cherry pitter, which I will do next time. I also wanted to use the classic blue pint-size canning jars that my friend Lynn gifted me with recently. Next time I’ll use the wide-mouth canning jars to fit the plums in more easily.

Photo of Canning Tools Needed in Recipe
Helpful Tools: spoon rest, lid lifter, cup with spout,
thermometer, jar lifter, canning wrench
Because Berries in Light Honey Sauce barely has any honey taste, I’d doubled the amount of honey for Cherries in Honey Sauce. This added perfect flavor but reduced the boiling point of the sauce to the point where the cans leaked during the hot water processing. I adapted the sauce for the plums with a slight decrease in honey and increase in evaporated cane juice (sugar). The result is an excellent honey flavor that compliments the American plum tartness. Give it a try if you’ve got some wild plums.

Six Jars of Wild Plums, one open and served
From the Wild Landscape
Whole American Plums in Honey Sauce
makes 6 pints

5 lbs. small plums
6 cups water
1 cup honey
1 cup evaporated cane juice (sugar)
6 jar lids and rings

Sterilize the jars by boiling in hot water, inverting, and letting air-dry. Pour very hot but not boiling water over washed lids and rings and leave submerged in water. Wash the plums and pat dry. Cut an X into each plum where the branch inserted with a small sharp knife. This will help the honey to penetrate the fruit.

Pack plums into pint jars using a firm touch, filling all the gaps that you can with appropriate-size plums. Minor spots and blemishes are fine, but discard plums that are squishy. Fit about 5 plums into the bottom of the jar, packing them gently but firmly; use your fingers or a wooden spoon handle. Layer plums up to the top of the jar, pressing them gently together. Wedge top layer under the jar neck as much as possible.

Combine water, honey, and sugar, and heat to 200 degrees F over medium heat, stirring constantly. If mixture boils up, remove from heat and reheat over lower heat till thermometer comes close to 200 degrees.

Plums Packed into 6 Jars, with 10 Plums Left Out
A Few Leftovers
Pour hot honey syrup over plums in jars, using a cup with a spout. Fill to about ¼ inch from the top. Wipe the top with a damp paper towel in case you have spilled any liquid. Top with dry lid (use a new one, don’t recycle used lids).  Screw the ring on till just barely finger-tight. Air will bubble out from the beneath the lid during processing, so don’t close them tightly.

Process in hot water bath canner (or large pot of boiled water that will cover jars by at least 2 inches) at 210 degrees for 25 minutes. Keep water below 212 degrees F to minimize risk of sauce boiling out of the jars.

Remove jars from hot water using jar lifter or tongs. Set gently on kitchen towel on countertop. As soon as jars are cool enough to handle, tighten rings. An insulated glove and canning jar wrench make tightening rings easier. When completely cool, check to be sure that each cap has “snapped” down, sealing the contents (if you can push the lid and make a snapping noise, it is not sealed).

If a jar did not seal, remove the ring and cap and wipe the top of the jar dry. Check the cap to see if it looks bent—if so replace it. If not, rinse off syrup and dry it completely. Add more honey sauce if needed, re-cap and (loosely) ring the jar, and process again in the hot water bath.

PS, If you’re new to canning, purchasing an inexpensive (~$10) canning kit will save time and make handling the jars during the canning process easier. It will give you years of service for making jam as well as preserving fruits in honey sauce. If you don't have a canning pot with a built-in thermometer, a programmable meat thermometer (<$20) is indispensable for keeping water bath just below the boiling point. We use a combination meat thermometer and timer, handy for timing everyday kitchen activities as well as for canning. And occasionally we even use it to check the temperature of cooked meat!

Our American Plum Tree
Scruffy Volunteer or Hearty Provider?


  1. The jars and plums look GREAT together!

    1. They do look rather sexy, LOL! Thanks for the cool jars, L.