How to Make Plum Jam for Beginners

Plum preserve
Plum jam
Plum jam

Plums jam is easy to make; all you need is fresh, ripe plums, sugar and a bit of lemon juice. From start to finish, you will have plum jam in less than an hour.

Plums are a diverse lot; they range in color from green to yellow to red to purple to blue to black and they range in flavor from sour to very sweet. Choose your favorite for a plum jam you will love.

European plums ripen in early summer; they are fairly small and tart. Japanese plums ripen from mid- to late-summer and they are large, juicy, and sweet.

To make jam, choose plums that have a rich, deep color and skin that is firm but not taut. Just ripe plums are best for jam making—the peel will come off easily; overripe plums will be sticky and will easily split and may not make as tasty jam.


Plum Jam

Yield 4 half-pints


  • 3 pounds plums, pitted and quartered (you can use this recipe for other stone fruit as well—peaches, nectarines, apricots)
  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


  1. Rinse plums and remove pits. Finely chop or force plums through a food chopper.
  2. Place plums in a heavy-bottomed, 4-quart pot, stir in sugar and lemon juice and let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat—about 10 minutes–mashing the fruit with a potato masher. Stir occasionally to make sure the fruit does not stick to the bottom. Bubbles will rise to the top of the mix. You will see chunks of fruit in the mixture. Skim foam off top and lift and discard skins with a fork if desired. Cook on until the showing mixture thickens and clings to a spoon, falling off in clumps, another 10 minutes or so.
  4. In the meantime, scald half-pint jars in a large pot with a fitted rack. Soak lids in a pan of hot water to soften the rubber seal. Lift jars out of hot water one at a time, draining water.
  5. Ladle hot jam into hot jars using a wide-mouth funnel or transfer the jam to a heat-proof pitcher and pout into jars. Leave ½ inch headspace. Slide nonmetallic spatula between jam and jar to release trapped air bubbles.
  6. Wipe rims and threads of jar with a clean, damp cloth. Remove lid from hot water and place on jar. Screw each band down evenly and firmly until resistance is met. Place jars rack and lower into boiling-water canner until they are covered by about 1 inch of water.
  7. Put lid on canner. Bring water to a boil. Process ½ pints 10 minutes at a gentle but steady boil. (Start keeping time after water comes to rolling boil.)
  8. Turn off heat and remove canner lid. Let canner cool 5 minutes then remove jars and set them upright on a dry towel or rack. Do not retighten bands. Let jars cool 12 to 24 hours.
  9. After jars have cooled, check lids for a good vacuum seal: pressing the center of each lid. If center is pulled down and does not flex remove the band. If the lid does not flex and cannot lift it off, the seal is set. Wipe lid and jar with a clean, damp cloth. Label each jar. Store jam in a cool, dry, dark place.


The jam will keep for about a year. You can also use this recipe to make jam from other stone fruits as well--peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.


Comments are closed.
    • We haven’t made this recipe without sugar, but there are several sugar substitutes you could try including honey, unprocessed cane sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar,Truvia, Splenda, no-sugar pectin, concentrated fruit juice.

  1. I have just begun to look into canning my plums. I have no idea what variety they are, but they are a deep purple, quite small, maybe the size of medium to large marble with sour skins. I have never done this before but this years looks like a bumper crop so why not? I do not see pectin in the ingredients. My friend has preserved them in the past using regular left over jars and lids from different store bought items and pectin. After reading warnings I am dubious about how she is doing this. Is there any way to keep them more than a year? Are there other recipes that may be an option that will let them last for years if necessary.

    • Canning and preserving plums and other fruits should not be guesswork. See this link from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. This will guide you when canning plums.

  2. Thanks for your recipe. I’m a newbie on this as I moved to a home with a Santa Rosa plum tree. I was lucky to pick and freeze them in time to go on an extended trip. I have 10 one-gallon zip-lock bags of pitted and frozen plum laying flat in the bags, staked in my freezer. Some of these have been wonderful to toss into a morning shake! Now that I’m ready to can, a friend told me to defrost and peel them before cooking. Is it necessary to skin them? Thanks!

    • You don’t need to remove the skin, but you can. You might can two batches; one with skin, one without, and see which you prefer.

  3. I’ve never made Japanese Oriental jam before : I’ve made wild plum jam and we really like that so I’m anxious to try my jam I made today with the Oriental plums

  4. Thank you for the easy instructions. I prepared my plums ahead of time I just threw a bunch in the pot added sugar and some lemon juice a teaspoon of almond extract which by the way turned the plum a wonderful purple red and really brought out the flavor I also added some pineapple sage just fore the heck of it, boiled for a few min smashing as they boiled poured through a strainer and smashed with hand to remove the pits and skins kind of like cleaning pumpkins.I just could not see de-pitting 5 gallons of plums turned out great. And sits well in the refrigerator for days then put back to boil added 2 cup of sugar made two batches 20 jar so far have more to do. The flavor is delicious. texture smooth.A wonderful completion my plum jelly on a Thomas English muffin.. Yum Yum not bad for my first time.. looking forward to enjoying your web site.

  5. My jam is still very liquid. I boiled it until it started overflowing. Them I turned it down and skinned off the foam and the perks. It still bubbled while over the flame, but after 90 min, still did not thicken. Any suggestions? I did follow the amounts of sugar to plum weight exactly. I live near Salt Lake City.

    • There are a few variables that apply to canning at altitude. Using the boiling-water processing you should follow these guidelines:
      Altitude in feet: 1001-3000 increase time by 5 minutes; 3001-6000 (includes Salt Lake City) increase time by 10 minutes; over 6000 increase time by 15 minutes. Also increasing the amount of sugar will help develop solids (brix) in your jam. It may take a few batches to get the technique down. I would suggest you call the nearby Cooperative Extension and speak with a canning expert

    • There are approximately four cups in a pound–that’s approximate because the density and so the weight of the pitted plums can vary.

  6. A neighbor gave me about 40 lbs of what he called Japanese plums. They are small, red and a bit soft and have a lot of juice in them. Love the easy recipe but have a question. Can I remove pit and run the fruit and peel through a blender? Is there anything else I can do with them?

    • Plum pits container a toxic substance so it’s best to discard the pits. The peels can be a bit acidic flavored, but otherwise, you can combine the skin and flesh in jams and preserves.

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