Canning plums is an easy way to preserve this fruit for the colder winter months. All you need is plums, water, sugar, and spices if you desire, and some jars to properly can them as halves or wholes.
Plums have a pretty short harvest season and don’t store very well. In the autumn, I like canning plums so I can preserve the flavor of one of my favorite fruits for year-round enjoyment.
Since plums are one of my favorite, I enjoy making plum jelly, spiced plum jam, plum sauce, and eating them fresh, but canning is a great way to preserve them for later use. It’s easy and I can then use the plums as a dessert, or add them to dishes any time of year, as long as I have a few jars in the pantry.
This recipe is really simple. I prefer to add spices to make them spiced plums, but you can omit all of the spices (and even the sugar) if you choose. But, canning plums just isn’t the same unless they’re spiced, in my opinion.
Choosing & Preparing Plums for Canning
When choosing plums to can, you’ll want to select mature fruit of ideal quality. Select deep-colored plums at peak freshness for the best results.
The fruit should be slightly soft, but not so squishy it can’t hold its shape. Choosing these fruits will result in canned plums that are somewhat firm, maintain their shape, and have a sweet flavor to them.
Plums can be canned whole, without being pitted the tradeoff being that you have to pit them later, after they’re processed. Small, clingstone fruit, such as Damsons can be pitted using a cherry pitter.
If you decide to use whole plums for canning, you’ll want to pierce the skin with a fork several times. This will help keep the skin from popping and splitting and enable the fruit to maintain its shape during the canning process.
You can also halve plums, how I choose to can them, and remove the pits when they’re halved. This is especially helpful for larger freestone plums, such as Italian Plums or Stanley, as the pit is easily removable.
Regardless of how they’re canned, plums hold up considerably well to the canning process. Whether plum halves or kept whole, they will easily maintain their shape and stay firm, yet soft.
Raw Pack Method
Plums can be packed raw, meaning they do not need to be cooked or otherwise heated before they’re packed into the jars as long as you’re packing them in a syrup. If you’re using water or juice, you have to hot pack the fruit.
To raw pack, you’ll simply pack raw plums, whole with pricked skins, or halved, into jars as tightly as you can and put the hot syrup over the top of them.
While this is much easier and less time consuming, it also results in shrinkage and floating fruit, so you’ll wind up with smaller fruit that doesn’t keep its shape quite as well floating at the top with your syrup mostly at the bottom. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, you won’t be able to pack them in as tightly so you won’t have as much fruit per jar.
Hot Pack Method
Hot pack is how I choose to can plums and other stone fruit. It results in less shrinkage, more fruit per jar, and fruit that is more evenly distributed instead of it all floating at the top.
Note: If you aren’t hot packing, you’ll skip the step of heating the fruit in the syrup, but everything else will remain the same.
This method is a little messier and more difficult since you’re packing while the fruit is hot, but it’s worth the tradeoff in my opinion.
To hot pack, bring your canning liquid to a boil; syrup, water, or fruit juice. Then, place your plums in the boiling liquid; piercing the skin if you are leaving them whole. Boil the plums for 2 minutes, a single layer at a time, spooning the blanched plums out of the liquid with a slotted spoon until you’ve blanched all of them.
Once they’ve all been boiled, put them all back into the syrup, remove the pan from heat, cover saucepan with a lid and let them sit for 30 minutes.
After that, remove the lid, bring the pan back to a boil, and then you’ll pack your jars by ladling the hot plums into the jars, adding hot liquid once they’re packed in tight, and leaving a generous 1/2″ of headspace from the top of the jar.
Canned Plums Syrup
There are a variety of liquids you can utilize to can plums. From a sugar and water syrup to fruit juice to plain water. What you choose is really up to you.
If you use water, which is an excellent, no sugar added option, you will have to hot pack your fruit. The fruit will also taste less sweet since the water will pull some of the sweetness out of the fruit while its processed. So prepare for a slightly watered down version of plums.
You can also use fruit juice to can plums in, apple or grape being excellent options. These plums will also have to be hot packed.
While I dislike using sugar more than necessary, I like to use sugar syrup for canning plums. I prefer a light syrup as it brings out the flavor quite well without being too sweet. To make it, combine 5 3/4 cups water with 1 1/2 cups of sugar for a 9 pint canner load. For a 7 quart load you’ll need to combine 9 cups water with 2 1/4 cups of sugar. Note that you can also use honey in place of the sugar, if you choose, cup for cup.
You can use more, or even less sugar, if you so choose. The NCHFP has all the measurements for very light through very heavy syrup.
How to Can Plums
Pack plums, raw or hot, into prepared, hot jars. You’ll need about 1 pound of plums per pint or 2 pounds of plums per quart.
Fill jars with hot canning liquid, leaving 1/2″ of headspace.
Remove air bubbles and adjust for proper headspace if necessary.
Wipe jar rims with a clean, damp cloth.
Center lid on jar and tighten screw bands to finger tight.
Place jars in boiling water canner, ensuring they are covered with at least 2″ of water. Place lid on the canner, bring to a full rolling boil. Once boiling process pint jars for 20 minutes or quart jars for 25 minutes for elevations below 1000 feet. Using the adjustments below for higher elevations:
- 1,001-3,000 feet process pints for 25 minutes, quarts for 30 minutes.
- 3,001-6,000 feet process pints for 30 minutes, quarts for 35 minutes.
- 6,001 feet and above process pints for 35 minutes, quarts for 40 minutes.
After processing, remove canner lid and allow jars to sit for 5 minutes. Then, using jar tongs, remove jars to a towel lined counter and leave undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours before checking for seals. Any unsealed jars need refrigerated and used within 2 weeks.
Sealed jars will keep in a cool, dark place for up to 18 months.
Making Spiced Plums
I love making spiced plums, so when canning, I add a few things to each jar. Feel free to change them up or omit them altogether if you choose. Changing spice quantities does not affect canning time or safety.
To make spiced plums, before packing jars put 1 teaspoon of orange zest, 2 star anise, and 1 cinnamon stick in the bottom of each jar.
These jars will be processed exactly the same as above, the only difference is the addition of spices before packing.
You can also add a couple of cinnamon sticks to the canning liquid while it’s boiling, discarding them (or using them in some of the jars) after use.
Canned spiced plums are simple to make and a delicious way to store the flavor of this delicious, seasonal fruit.
- 9 Pounds Plums (approximate)
- Syrup, Fruit Juice or Water
- 9 Cinnamon Sticks (optional)
- 18 Star Anise (optional)
- 9 teaspoons Orange Zest (optional)
- Wash jars, lids & rings in hot soapy water. Prepare boiling water canner and simmer jars. Simmer lids in separate pot.
- Halve plums and remove pits, if desired. If leaving whole, pit with a cherry pitter if desired, prick skins with a fork.
- Prepare syrup if using (see notes), or place water or juice in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
- If making spiced plums, place 1 cinnamon stick, 2 star anise, and 1 teaspoon of orange zest in each jar.
- RAW PACK: Pack prepared plums into hot jars.
HOT PACK: Place plums in boiling canning liquid (syrup, water, or juice) in single layers. Cook for 2 minutes, remove to a bowl until all plums have been processed. Place all plums back into liquid, remove from heat, cover saucepan with a lid and let plums sit for 30 minutes. Bring contents of pan back to a boil after time has passed, pack hot plums into prepared jars.
- Cover plums with hot canning liquid, leaving a generous 1/2" of headspace from the top of the jar. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary.
- Wipe jar rims with a clean, damp cloth. Center lids on jars, place ring bands on jars, tighten to finger tight.
- Place prepared jars in boiling water canner. Cover jars with two inches of water, put lid on canner, bring water to a rolling boil.
- Process pints for 20 minutes, quarts for 30 minutes for elevations under 1,000 feet (see notes for altitude adjustments).
- After processing, remove lid from canner and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Remove jars from canner to a towel lined counter and let sit undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours before checking for seals.
Yield will vary slightly based on packing method and size of fruit, measurements are approximate. You will need approximately 1 pound of plums per pint, two for quarts.
Light canning syrup can be made by combining 1 1/2 cups of sugar with 5 3/4 cups of water for 9 pints or 2 1/4 cups of sugar with 5 1/4 cups of water for 7 quarts.
- 1,001-3,000 ft - Pints 25 minutes, quarts 30 minutes.
- 3,001-6,000 ft - pints 30 minutes, quarts 35 minutes
- 6,001 ft and above - pints 35 minutes, quarts 40 minutes.