Plum Preserves: A Heritage Recipe

Plum preserves

One of my favorite early fall activities is preserving foods that we grew and harvested ourselves. And, plum preserves are at the top of my list!

This year, our plum trees truly delivered. We had a beautiful display of blooms in the spring, and then the pollinators did their job to help produce some amazing fruit.

Plum tree blossoms in spring

Before the birds got to them, I wanted to make sure I canned as many as possible to enjoy all winter long. Fortunately, I have a big box full of recipes from my grandmother and great-grandmother, and they never fail to give me great ideas!

But do you know the difference between preserves, jams, and jellies? The history and meaning behind our homesteading activities is always so interesting to me.

Preserving fruit is certainly a heritage homesteading activity, and one that goes back many generations of our family trees. Through careful planning and preparation, preserving allows us to enjoy our harvests for several months after the growing season ends.

{ Related: How We Prep and Preserve Food All Year }

But, what’s the difference between jam and jelly? And, what are preserves??

Plum Jelly

Jams, Jellies, and Preserves, Oh My!

When it comes to the difference between jams, jellies, and preserves, it’s all about the amount of fruit in the finished product. Here’s a simple breakdown…

Jelly: Jelly is made from clear fruit juice and sugar. It does not contain any fruit in the finished product. The juice is usually extracted by cooking down the mashed fruit and then straining out the pulp until only the juice remains. Because there’s no fruit in jelly, it’s generally made with the addition of pectin in order for it to set up properly. Jelly is also the smoothest finished product, and it’s usually spread with a knife.

Jam: Unlike jelly, jam does contain fruit. However, the fruit is mashed or pureed to make it somewhat smooth. It might even contain seeds (think: Strawberry Jam). The fruit is cooked with sugar, just like jelly, but the finished product is less smooth and has a texture that’s more spoonable. To be technically accurate, jams only contain one kind of fruit. If you add other fruits (like mixed berries, for example) or nuts, you have conserves. Jams made with citrus fruits (often including bits of the peel) are called marmalade.

Preserves: On the other end of the spectrum from jelly, you’ll find preserves. Preserves contain the most fruit, with chunks of fruit still present in the finished product. Depending on how it’s cooked, the texture might be more syrupy, or jammy, but always with bits of fruit. Because preserves are made with whole fruit, they often do not require the addition of pectin. That’s because there’s already enough natural pectin in the fruit itself.

Now, there are two others to add to this list that sort of fit “in between” these categories: chutney and fruit butter.

Plum jelly on crackers

Chutney and Fruit Butter

Chutney contains both whole and mashed fruit, which puts them somewhere in the middle of jams and preserves. However, they’re also made with much less sugar, and generally have more savory flavors with the addition of chilies, onions, spices, and vinegar.

Fruit butter is similar to preserves, in that it contains a lot of fruit and usually much less sugar. But unlike preserves, you cook fruit butters very, very slowly until it’s wonderfully smooth. The texture is more creamy and less jelly-like. I like to use my slow cooker and let it cook all day. The house smells wonderful!

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Jar of plum jelly

How to Make Plum Preserves

Before we get into the recipe steps, there are a few things to know about making plum preserves.

For starters, you’ll get the best results from very ripe fruit. How do you know when plums are ready to harvest? Easy–they will nearly fall off the tree when you gently tug them. In fact, they might even literally fall of the tree! They also feel a bit like a full water balloon when they are perfectly ripe.

In case you’re wondering, yes, you can make plum preserves from store-bought plums. They probably won’t be as ripe, but it can be done! Also, unripe fruit has higher levels of pectin. This means that your fruit will gel more easily, so be careful not to overcook it.

Your fruit will cook faster if you cut it into smaller pieces, which can be helpful if you pick your plums before they are ripe (or if you use store-bought plums). I only quartered my plums because they were quite ripe already.

Plum preserves on crackers with cheese

10 Ways to Serve Plum Preserves

Be sure to make a lot of these plum preserves because there are so many ways to enjoy them all year long! Try a few of these ideas:

  • Spread preserves on any toasted bread–gotta love a classic!
  • Top crackers with any soft cheese and a dollop of preserves.
  • Drizzle preserves over ice cream.
  • Add preserves to plain yogurt for a sweet treat.
  • Smear bread with preserves before making grilled cheese sandwiches!
  • Use preserves atop waffles, pancakes, or french toast.
  • Make an indentation in the top of sugar cookies and fill with a drop of preserves.
  • Mix with BBQ sauce and simmer plant-based meatballs in the slow cooker–perfect tapas!
  • Use preserves as a glaze for any grilled protein.
  • Mix preserves with chili peppers, then pour over cream cheese and serve with crackers for a sweet & spicy appetizer.
Canning plums

Basic Canning Equipment You’ll Need

The canning equipment you’ll need to make this recipe will also set you up to preserve almost any other type of food you like! These are the exact items I use:

Plum Preserves

Plum preserves are a delicious heritage recipe you can make each fall with only two ingredients!
Print Recipe
Prep Time:5 mins
Cook Time:30 mins
Processing Time:15 mins
Total Time:50 mins


  • 2.5 lbs Plums pitted and sliced
  • 4 cups Sugar
  • 1 cup Water


  • Slice plums in half to expose the pit.
    Slice plums to remove pits
  • Carefully remove the pits, then chop plums.
    Cut plums in half to remove pits
  • Optional: If you need time to sanitize your jars, I like to let my fruit sit in the sugar for a bit. Otherwise, skip to the next step.
    Adding sugar for plum preserves
  • Combine all ingredients into a large pot, and slowly bring to a boil. Stir constantly.
    Cooking plum preserves
  • While the plums are cooking, prepare the lids in a warm (not hot) water bath. Lids should reach 180Β°F for 10 minutes before use.
  • Once sugar is dissolved, cook the plums rapidly until just before the gelling point. This will take approximately 20-30 minutes. Continue stirring to prevent the plums from sticking and burning.
    Boiling plum preserves
  • The fruit will break down significantly during this cooking time. I quartered my plums, and ended up with bite-sized pieces after boiling.
    Making plum preserves
  • Optional: If you prefer even smaller chunks of fruit than what you end up with after cooking the necessary time, you may want to process the plums with an immersion blender.
    Blend plums with an immersion blender
  • Remove from heat, and immediately spoon the preserves into the hot jars.
    Ladle preserves into hot jars
  • Leave 1/4 inch headspace, and add lid and band. Process jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, then carefully remove jars and place on a towel. Leave jars undisturbed for 24 hours.
    Add lids to canning jars
  • After 24 hours, confirm the seal of the lid by pressing the middle to make sure it does not pop. Adjust bands, add labels, and store for future use.


  1. When properly canned, your jars can be stored safely (in a cool, dark place between 50-70Β°F) for up to one year
  2. This recipe usually yields about 6 half-pints for me, but make sure to have a few extra jars/lids ready–just in case.
  3. The actual cooking time will vary based on many factors including the size of your pot, intensity of flame, elevation, and humidity levels on the day you prepare the recipe. Always perform a gelling test to make sure your preserves are ready for canning.
  4. Never double the recipe–this will prevent the preserves from properly gelling.
  5. Make sure to weigh your plums after pitting for an accurate measurement.
  6. Use organic sugar to ensure your preserves are vegan. This is my favorite.
Servings: 6 half-pints
Jars of plum preserves in a farmhouse kitchen

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  1. Those plum preserves look delicious! I actually did not know the difference between jam and preserves. Preserves sounds so vintage.
    I wish we had plums! My sister in law, up on Idaho, got a ton this year! Your recipe looks really good.

    God bless!
    Ridge Haven Homestead
    If you’d like to share it further, please come by the Homestead Blog Hop and share with our readers! I believe they would love it. I can’t link here, but just stop by my page and you can find the hop in the categories!

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