Sunday, August 23, 2009

Canned Plums In Syrup


I just can't stop looking at these canned plums. Or, apparently, telling people that they're pickled eggs (a joke whose humor seems lost on most of my audience). I'm no stranger to canning, as I've already mentioned. But I've never put whole fruits inside of jars before, an act that seems like it shouldn't work. You wouldn't throw whole plums in the freezer -- how can you cavalierly toss them inside a jar?

As it turns out, it's simply necessity that leads to this dramatic presentation. Most plums are clingstone, with the flesh firmly attached to the pit. There's no way you're going to end up with neat pitted halves, as you would with freestone peaches. The only option is to can them whole, and just eat around the pits. But even with this unromantic explanation, I still sit in wonder at the sight of whole fruit, bobbing in its enclosed syrupy habitat.

Canned plums are so simple that they barely warrant a recipe. So instead, here are a series of loose guidelines. Find a tree in your neighborhood before the season is over.


Canned Plums In Syrup

As many plums as you can handle
As much syrup as you need
As many jars as it takes
Optional: any flavorings you fancy to add excitement to the fruit (vanilla beans, rosemary sprigs, etc.)

Sterilize your jars, either in boiling water or a dishwasher. Wash the plums, and prick them a few times with a skewer. This allows the syrup to permeate, and prevents the skins from bursting (although if you have a particularly thin-skinned variety of plums, they might burst anyways, leading to a still-delicious-albeit-somewhat-less-pretty product). Place the plums in your canning jars, tamping them down to fit as many as possible. They'll shrink in the hot syrup, so really pack them in. Tuck any desired flavorings in amongst the fruit.

Prepare your syrup: I favor a medium syrup, of 2 parts water to 1 part sugar. Make as much as you'll need to fill your jars. Bring to a boil, and then pour over the plums, up to 1/2" of the rim.

Top jars with sterilized lids, screw the rings on finger-tight, and then process in a boiling water bath (20 minutes for pints, 25 minutes for quarts). Remove and cool, then check that the lids have sealed. The syrup will infuse the plums (and vice versa) as they sit. By winter, they'll be amazing.

25 comments:

  1. I grew up on the Oregon Fruit Company canned plums in heavy syrup, but those are hard to find nowadays, so yours sound like a delicious idea. (I am hoarding one last can of Oregon Fruit Company plums for the next time my mom comes to visit!)

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    1. I am heartsick to not find the Oregon Fruit Company's canned plums any more and so I've taken up canning the Italian plums. They do look like the photo, white when first canned. But after sitting for a month or two in the jar, they turn back to their normal color and they're fabulous.

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    2. I love your ideas and have had great success canning plums using your methods. I make a wonderful plum cake from my canned plums and always have lots of syrup left over. I now save it to mix with club soda and ice for a wonderful summer drink. It would also be great with a little vodka added to the mix.
      Great page, thanks!

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  2. Oh, look at those cuties!

    The plums I get are freestone, do you think I should halve them?

    Also, how sweet did these turn out--I'm not a fan of sweet-sweet preserves. Do you think I could go 3-1, store them in the fridge maybe?

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  3. Gillian: I've never tried the Oregon Fruit Company's products, though I'm often tempted by their retro-cute labels, which look like they haven't changed since the company's founding.

    Codfish: Medium syrup is somewhat sweet, but not terribly (I was also working with a fairly tart variety of plums). Generally "light" syrup is defined as 20%, so you could go as low as 4:1 if it suits your fruit (and your sweet tooth). I've also heard of using fruit juice instead of syrup, though I've never done it.

    If you've got freestone plums, go ahead and halve them. It allows you to pack much more in each jar, as well as yielding an easier-to-eat end result. And it's still pretty. After you pour in your syrup, make sure to tap the jars or nudge the fruit with a sterile knife to get rid of any large air pockets that may have gotten trapped inside the halves.

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  4. Hi - you didn't say how ripe the plums should be. The ones I see in the stores are usually pretty hard.

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  5. The plums will cook in the sugar syrup, so they don't need to be very ripe. As long as the fruit has some hint of give, you should be good to go.

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  6. Did it today, gonna be awesome for winter, gonna make more!

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  7. hi - I've just done some of these - but am a bit worried by the shrinkage. the plums are floating at the top - a little above the liquid, oresumabley in a vacuum as I filled the glass top jars right to the brim. I cold packed them and had them in a warm water bath. the seals are good. It's my first batch ever -

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    1. I had that happen to me. You can cook your plums in the syrup for five minutes, then load your jar with plums then syrup. It softens the plums and helps to get some of the air out of them. Make sure you use a spatula, put it in the jar and get the bubbles to float to the surface. Also gently push on the plums and that will release air. You will be able to fit more plums in your jars and they are less likely to float. Leave about a half inch of space between liquid and top of jar.

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  8. canned plums are the best over cottage cheese when feeling down. My grandmother canned Santa Rosa Plums that produced a hearty red juice. I only use enough sugar to help sweeten the fruit. I prefer the natural flavors and not the sugar. if you are just starting to learn to can always leave that 1/2 inch for expansion and reduced liquid lose when pulling jars from the cooker.

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  9. My friend gave me a huge grocery bag full of little plums a size I have never seen. I ate a few and found the skin to be very bitter (like most plums). I par boiled for just a minute the skins easily peeled off. I ate a few and the taste was fine for me but my husband prefers a sweeter taste when he eats canned fruit so I decided I wanted use your recipe for the syrup and can these cute little buggers. Thanks!

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  10. I just canned freestone plums - cut in have and removed the pit. I packed them in pretty well, without squishing them of course but I had a lot of spillage in the hot water bath and the plums are floating on the top half of the jar with the syrup at the bottom. A few seals have just 'popped' so it seems that they are now sealing, will they be safe to eat? Should I start over adding more fresh plums and do a hot pack instead of a raw pack?

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    1. If you used hot syrup and a hot water bath, then it is technically considered a "hot pack" (to differentiate from the more-common-in-Europe cold pack method that skips the water bath). If you want to avoid losing liquid (siphoning) and having canned goods float to the top, there are a few things you can do — but neither is a big problem when it comes to food safety. Check out this post for the rundown:

      http://www.foodinjars.com/2011/08/canning-101-tomato-float-sauce-separation-and-loss-of-liquid/

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  11. We just canned about 20 lbs of Japanese plums in light syrup. They sure are beautiful. Any recipe ideas for the light plum syrup?

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    1. Hmmm... I'll have to think on that, though using it as a syrup for some plummy cocktails sounds lovely.

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    2. I'd leave off the icing:
      http://www.food.com/recipe/tom-thumb-cake-with-canned-plums-374579

      You'd have to drain them for this one:
      http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/5444/Plum-and-Oat-Bran-Betty.html

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    3. Have you considered turning the syrup into jelly?

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    4. I would generally start with more of a sweetened juice than a syrup — a jelly made from this syrup would have a lighter plum flavor.

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  12. I just canned some yellow plums that grow wild on our farm don't know what kind they are but I can't wait to taste them this winter. I remember my grandmother canning these plums and how gooood they were.

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  13. I,ve never done this before, excuse my ignorance but is a water bath in a pan on the stove top or inside an oven? Thanks

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    1. Sorry for the confusion! A water bath is a pot of boiling water on the stovetop. If you've never canned before, I recommend foodinjars.com — they've got some great rundowns of the basics that underscore all canning recipes.

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  14. I know this is an old post, but came across it while checking out how to preserve plums. Just a thought, but the national center for food preservation says you can just use hot water in place of syrup, for those who said they don't like super sweet stuff. Also, I grew up just throwing a scant quarter cup sugar in the bottom of each quart jar when making peaches and just pouring water over top. As they water bath it mostly dissolves and this creates its own syrup in the jar. Anything that didnt disolve does within a few days. Do you think that would work for these plums as well?

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    1. I've only done the light syrup — in any canning project, it's good to go with established recipes so you don't skirt food-safety disaster. But as you're saying, it looks like many extensions have instructions for hot water packs. Go for it! I'm not sure if they keep in the same fashion, but it looks like it's plenty safe to experiment with.

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  15. yeah i love canned plums

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