August 19, 2010

Damson Plum Preserves

10 jars for the brides, and one for me.
I am happy to report that I made another 11 jars of jam yesterday.  Have I told you guys why I am doing all this canning?  I honestly can't remember.  Well, I am making jam for favors for two weddings (two of the four weddings I have left in this calendar year!) (I also have 4 weddings set already for next year...two in may!) (I need to stop having single friends.). 

So at the market on Saturday, I got two big bags of damson plums. I've never had a damson plum, and didn't think to try one when I was cooking yesterday. I understand they are tart brightly flavored little things, with deep blue skin and gorgeous golden flesh. When they are cooked, they turn the most magnificent magenta color. I honestly don't know what color to compare it to, but it is stunning.

Damsons, before mashing.  I know they look like blueberries, but theya re at least twice the size.
There are no good damson plum jam recipes online, as far as I can tell.  But I turned to my trusty (and over-due at the library) copy of Catherine Plagemann's Fine Preserving, which is annotated by M.F.K. Fisher.  Her recipe is off-hand in its simplicity: thrown in the ingredients; simmer; scoop out the pits, can when ready.  In fact, I found it most unhelpful in its simplicity, and wanted to share with you a few tips. Here's my own annotated recipe:

Damson Plum Jam

1 quart damson plums, stemmed and washing, but still whole
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water

Bring all ingredients to a boil, mashing the plums with a potato masher (my favorite jamming tool!).  

The  pits will mostly float to the top, but they are tiny and I found it difficult to scoop out while the jam is cooking, so: once the jam is mashed and cooking (it will seem very very juicy), pour it through a fine mesh sieve or, if you have it, a food mill, into a heat proof bowl.  With the sieve, you will have to use a spatula to press the pulp through the sieve, so some of the skins get into the jam too (they will continue to flavor the jam with their tartness).  Thrown out the remaining pulp/pit mixture, and return the jam to the pot.  If you want to be really really diligent, you can scoop out the individual pits and put the entire pulp back into the pot, but I got lazy after about ten minutes.  So long as you are using a nice flexible spatula with the sieve, you'll be able to press almost everything good out of the skins through the sieve.  A food-mill would just make it that much easier.

Boil till jelly state, continuing to stir and scrape the bottom of the pan.  You can tell this by several tests, but I usually eyeball it.  When you lift you spoon, if they jam comes off it in sheets, rather than individual drops or streams, then it is ready.  I tried to take a picture of this, but, failed.  The picture to your left is of  not-yet-jelly stage, badly out of focus.

Pour into hot sterilized jars, sealing them or covering with paraffin according to your preference.  This recipe makes about five 4oz. jars.  I successfully doubled the recipe to make to 11 4 oz jars.

(And, if you don't have quite enough jam for a final jar, may I recommend topping a bowl of vanilla ice cream with the left over jam.  Yummy!)

Jelly, Ice cream: yes, those are some Fine Preserves!


  1. I really need to make jam...your jam looks so lovely and happy : )

  2. I was looking a damson plum recipe and found your site! thanks! I really like the idea of just boiling then pitting--made it so much more manageable.

  3. Thanks for this recipe. My great-grandmother made Damson plum preserves & mentioned it in her diary which I am transcribing into a blog. I hope you don't mind, I have referenced this recipe on it.