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Homemade Plum Jelly

Easy homemade plum jelly is a great introduction to making homemade jelly. This simple recipe has only a few ingredients and is big on flavor.

jars of plum jelly

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Until a year ago, my family was 100% team Mama’s Homemade Strawberry Jam. I bought a flat of Louisiana strawberries every spring from the farmer’s market, canned several batches of homemade jam and prayed that it would last us through until next spring.

That is, until one day last September. I was making a recipe that called for plum jelly. It was one of those situations where I only needed a couple of tablespoons, but I had to buy an entire jar. I didn’t want to let a perfectly good jar of jelly go to waste, so the next time I reached the bottom of a jar of homemade jam, I substituted the store bought plum jelly instead. Big mistake.

The moment that store bought jelly hit Big Brother’s lips, he decided it was the end all be all and never would he let another flavor of jelly touch his peanut butter sandwich. My child, who was raised on homemade, chose store bought. Traitor.

For the last 12 months, I’ve been shelling out $3 a pop for a jar of store bought plum jelly and it’s been killing me. Finally, a few weeks ago I spied a display of plums as I walked into the produce section of my store. Finally, victory would be mine again!

wooden basket full of plums

What’s the difference between jam, jelly and preserves?

You may have perused the jelly aisle and notice jars labeled jam, jelly, preserves or marmalade. They are all produced the same way. The difference is in how the fruit is treated.

  • Jelly is made with fruit juice only.
  • Jam is make with pureed or crushed fruit.
  • Preserves have large chunks of fruit in them.
  • Marmalade is made with the peels only and made exclusively with citrus fruits.

How to extract the juice from plums

Don’t worry, you won’t be standing over a juicer for hours. We extract the juice by cooking the plums down. You’ll need about five pounds of plums for 8 (8 oz.) jelly jars. Start by cutting open your plums and removing the pits.

halved plum lying on a white counter next to a stock pot

I don’t bother peeling them because we will be straining our liquid anyway. Word to the wise, wear and old t-shirt for this part. Depending on how juicy your plums are, this can get messy and the juice stains.

Place your pitted plums in a large stock pot. Cover them with 1 ½ cups of water. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes.

sliced plums in a metal stock pot covered with water

Next, we want to separate the juice from the cooked fruit. I used a dollar store fine mesh colander I had on hand fitted over a mixing bowl. You can also use a fine mesh strainer or line a colander with several layers of cheese cloth. I left the plums to sit for several hours to give the juice plenty of time to drain.

cooked plums in a colander over a metal mixing bowl

By this time, the fruit has drained and the juice has cooled (The color reminds me of a formal dress I wore in high school.  Pretty, isn’t it?). You should have about 5 ½ cups of juice. Pour the juice back into a stock pot and add one package of pectin.

bowl of plum juice

Wait, what’s pectin?

Pectin is a naturally occurring fiber found in fruits. It helps to thicken the jelly to a spreadable consistency. Some fruits have more pectin than others.

There are recipes out there for no-pectin jams and jellies. I haven’t had the best luck with them. I’d rather put the time in to make jelly only to end up with syrup. If you are worried about sugar, there are some low sugar pectins out there that I have had great success with.

picture of a box of pectin

Why Do You Add Butter to Homemade Jam?

We’re also going to one tablespoon of butter to the pot. As your juice boils, it will start to foam. The foam is just air bubbles and it won’t hurt you to eat it. But it can cause your jelly to look cloudy. If you are planning on canning your jelly, it can also affect the shelf life. The butter breaks the surface tension and prevents the foam from forming in the first place.

However, if you forget the butter, don’t sweat it. You’ll just need to skim the foam off the top before pouring the jelly into jars.

skimming the foam off the jelly

How to Make Plum Jelly

Once you’ve added the pectin and butter, bring the juice to a full rolling boil over high heat. That just means that the boil doesn’t stop when you stir it. Keep boiling and add the sugar. Boil for one minute. Boiling it for longer will cause the jelly to become more firm and harder to spread. Skim off any foam that has formed with a metal spoon. Discard the foam.

bringing the plum jelly to a boil

The jelly will be syrupy at first. It will thicken as it cools. But if you’re just dying to know if the jelly set or not, there is a way to test it. Stick a meta spoon in the freezer for several minutes. Once it’s good a cold, lay it on the counter and dribble a few drops of the jelly on it. The jelly on the spoon should set within a matter of minutes.

spoon covered in plum jelly

How to Store Homemade Plum Jelly

Jelly has a longer shelf life than other types of jams or preserves because of its higher sugar content. Jelly what has not been canned will last one year in the fridge.

I prefer to can my homemade jams and jellies. Because of its high acid content, plum jelly can be processed using the water bath canning method. Check out my beginner’s guide to waterbath canning.

checking the plum jelly for headspace

Simply fill clean jars, leaving ¼-inch of headspace. Fill the pot until the jars are covered with at least one-inch of water. Bring the water to a boil, then cover the pot and process for ten minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Give the jars 24 hours to cool. Then check the seal by pressing the center of the lid. If it doesn’t give, your jars are sealed!

I’m happy to report, no more store bought jelly for Big Brother’s peanut butter sandwich. He’s seen the error of his ways and I have forgiven him. All is right in the universe.

plate of sliced bread with peanut butter and plum jelly

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unprocessed jars of plum jelly
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4.45 from 25 votes

Homemade Plum Jelly

Easy homemade plum jelly is a great introduction to making homemade jelly. This simple recipe has only a few ingredients and is big on flavor.
Course Sauces and Seasonings
Cuisine American
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 41 minutes
Servings 8 (8 oz.) jars
Calories 50kcal
Author Lisa B.

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds fully ripe plums
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 (1.75 ounce) box fruit pectin
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 6-1/2 cups granulated sugar

Instructions

  • Slice the plums in half and remove and discard the pits. Don’t bother peeling them.
  • Place the plums in a large stockpot. Add the water. Bring the pot to a boil, then cover and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.
  • Strain the juice by pouring through a fine mesh strainer or line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth. Allow the fruit to drain for about 30 minutes. Discard the fruit.
  • You should have about 5 ½ cups of plum juice. Pour the juice back into the pot. Add one box of pectin. Bring the juice to a hard rolling boil.
  • Add the sugar. Continue to boil the jelly for one minute. Remove the pot from the heat. Skim any foam from the top with a metal spoon.
  • Ladle the jelly into clean jars. Jelly can be stored for one year in the fridge.
  • Jelly can also be canned using the water bath canning method. Leave ¼ – inch of headspace in each jar. Top with lids and bands. Process for 10 minutes. Unopened jars can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 2 years.

Nutrition

Serving: 1tbsp | Calories: 50kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Sodium: 10mg | Sugar: 13g

58 Comments

  1. Novelda Chavez

    Hello, I wanted to know what happens if you don’t use the amount of sugar called for in the recipe. Will your jelly not set. Just didn’t want the jelly to be to sweet. Tasted it as I cooked it and then stopped adding sugar when I got to the desired sweetness.
    I did the same with some prickly pear jelly. It didn’t set. Some jars set half way but not all the way.

  2. Using Damson plums, my husband filled a 3 gallon bucket and my neighbor used her old school juicer to produce two large containers of juice and 1 large container of pulp. Now it’s my turn to make jelly. Although I’ve never done it before. I love your site, it is very helpful to get me started. My question is….. do I use the juice for jelly and the pulp for jam? And if so, is the process/recipe different for jam? Thank you!

    • Hi Dana, thank you so much! Yes, jelly is made from the juice only. Jam and preserves include juice and pulp. The recipe would differ some — you would need less juice since you’re including the pulp. the process would be the same. I haven’t developed a recipe for plum jam yet, so I can’t give you exact measurements. If you try making jam, please come back and let me know!

    • Lots of i formation, easy to understand, great photos, beautifil jelly, thk you

  3. george n wells

    5 stars
    I have made to attempts to make plum jelly! Years ago I made jelly and turned out find every time but this will not jell. There was a recipe for remaking it after two weeks if it didn’t jell. Lost the recipe. Would appreciate any instructions you might have.

  4. How many plums do you have to put in for one jar?

    • Hi, I’ve never made just one jar. If you click on the servings in the recipe card, it will pull up a sliding scale where you can increase or decrease the number of servings you want to make. I suggest decreasing it to one and see what it says. Though I can’t guarantee you will get the same results.

  5. Gay Attebury

    There are some typos in this recipe. When placed in canner, fill water to “once”…do you mean, 1 inch?
    You also say to boil for 5 min and in another place, you say 10.
    Thank you.

  6. John Potter

    5 stars
    I read through several recipes before coming across this one. I decided to try this one and my jelly came out perfect!!! My only regret is that I didn’t get more plums. I have been asked by several people which recipe I used and I turned them on to this one. One of the best jellies I have ever made!!! Thanks for the recipe!!!

  7. 5 stars
    I used California plums and the recipe made for some yummy jelly. I, however, did not wipe off the rims and the jars did not seal. Didn’t think I spilled any but obviously did. I found info on how to remedy, but what do you recommend? Thanks!

    • Hi, Karen! You can try canning them again. You will need to use new lids. Double check your headspace. Too much or too little will affect the seal. And definitely wipe the rims clean. Any bit of debris can prevent the jars from sealing properly.

  8. I live in the UK. Could you give me the exact amount of pectin that you use, I do not know how much a box weighs over here! Thank you!!

  9. Dori watts

    When do you add butter?

  10. 5 stars
    My question is…. I only have low sugar pectin. How much juice:sugar would you recommend? Or do I need to run to the store for regular pectin?

  11. Devie Holcomb

    5 stars
    Love this recipe so good..my family just love it.

  12. 5 stars
    We made this jam a few days ago and it turned out great! We actually used a plum/apricot that was given to us, and it worked well..now we have more plums and are going to make another batch or two! Thinking Christmas gifts!

  13. 5 stars
    I only had 5 cups of juice, not 5 1/2, so I cut out the half cup of sugar, therefore, 6 cups of sugar. Jelly did fine!

  14. 5 stars
    First time making jelly and didn’t have 5 lbs of plums and 2 different kinds so had to do some head scratching. Turned out even better than expected. I love plum jelly. Did use whole package of pectin before I thought but no problem

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