As the second part to our preserving seasonal produce series, we will be talking about how to preserve plums. Canning sweet fruit is a very different process than vegetables. You can pickle plums, but I like to keep them sweet. This guide will give you a result that is perfect for desserts and over ice cream. In the other article I mentioned that I made plum wine one year. This recipe is made out of trial and error with much more error that I hoped for. Preserving fruit is especially difficult because you use sugar, which has the potential to feed all those nasty bugs you don’t want in your jar. There are many ways to preserve via canning and this is just one. I don’t own a pressure caner or else my life would be much easier! Give this recipe a try for any sugary fruit, such as peaches and cherries and enjoy your seasonal produce!
Ingredients: 20 lbs of plums, 8 quart jars with lids, 2.5 cups sugar, 3 cups water, 3 cups plum juice, 1/2 cup lemon juice
Step 1: Prepare the Plums. Start with 20 lbs of plums. You can choose to preserve them with their pits, or cut them out. To cut the pits out safely, cut the plum in halves and then quarters. The pit should easily pull out then. You want plums that are ripe but not squishy. I like to put them in whole. The skin of the plums is soft enough to leave on.
Step 2: Prepare the Jars. Some of these steps are the same regardless of application of canning. Preparing the jars properly is essential to the outcome of your canning. I use the dishwasher to make my work a lot easier. Run the jars with their lids through a disinfecting cycle, or the hottest setting you have. Keep the lids in the hot dishwasher while you work. This keeps them clean and will help stop any bad bacteria that try to make home in your preserves. At the same time, clean your canning pot and set it up following the makers directions. It usually has a metal grate that goes on the bottom to allow for even heating. Again, make sure everything is sterile and clean.
Step 3: Make Your Syrup. In a new pot, combine 2.5 cups of sugar, 3 cups of juice, and 3 cups of water. Boil on low until incorporated. This liquid will help keep the plums shape and color as they age. You can use all juice or sugar alternative for this step. After the sugar is dissolved, add your plums to the mixture. Boil on low for 5 minutes. This creates a hot packing method which helps keep the color of the plums as they age. It also softens the fruit for a better texture on ice cream.
Step 4: Pack the Jars. Divide your plums and start stuffing the jars with them. I use 1 quart jars but any size will work. Once all the plums are packed in as far as they will go, fill the jars with the boiling syrup. Leave 1/2 an inch of air at the top of the jar and let the liquid settle down into the plums. Fill them up as needed, but you want a final 1 inch space at the top in the end. Add 1 tsp of lemon juice into each jar. This will also help keep the fruit color.
Step 5: Put the Lids On. Use a magnetic canning stick or a very clean towel and twist the jar lids on. Cleanliness is key here so try not to touch any part of the metal. Tighten the lids snugly, but make sure not to over tighten them at this point.
Step 6: Can the Jars. This is the most important step and one that you cannot skip. Put the jars in the big canning pot and cover them with water. There should be about an inch of water over the top of the jars so the water can freely circulate around them. This step for fruit is double the time than for vegetables. Boil the jars for 30 minutes. This time changes based on altitude and jar size, so google for a canning time calculator before you start.
Step 7: Cool the Jars. Use a rubber grip and carefully remove the jars from the pot. Put them out to cool overnight in a safe place. You know the canning worked if the lids get sucked down and seal air tight. All night you should hear popping as this occurs. The next day you should check each jar to make sure they are fully sealed. Push down in the middle of the lid and if it pops down then it is not sealed. It should be pushed fully down and unmovable. Tighten the rings on the jars that sealed properly and store for later. If your jars do not seal, try re-canning them with freshly sterilized rings.
Step 8: Wait and Enjoy! Store your new preserves in a cool dark place such as the back of a cupboard or in a cellar. Wait at least a week to try your new pickles. If the water goes cloudy or it smells funny when you open it, toss the jar out. You don’t want to be sick from improper canning. Your pickles should last a year if done properly, but some of mine have lasted much longer. Serve the plums on their own or on top of ice cream. The syrup is also delicious so don’t throw it out. Enjoy!