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Canning Plums

Canning plums is a great way to preserve plums to savor summer all year long. Plums can be canned whole or in halves, plain or sweetened, with or without spices, with or without the pits, and by raw packing or hot packing.

Whether you’re preserving homegrown plums, wild plums, or plums that you purchased, it’s worth the effort to put up a batch of home canned plums to enjoy all year long.

top view of an open jar of canned plums

Choosing and Preparing Plums for Canning

When choosing plums for canning it’s important to choose plums that are ripe but still firm. If you use plums that are overripe they will probably fall apart during the canning process.

The plum should be rinsed well to remove any dirt that’s before you cut into them.

There are some plums that have a pit that is easy to remove, these are called freestone plums. To remove the pits, you just cut the plum in half and twist the plum halves to separate. Then you can use your fingers to remove the pit from plum half.

Clingstone plums have a pit that’s not so easy to remove. You can still probably open the plum up the “cut in half and twist” method but it will a little harder. You’ll need a knife to cut the pit out of the plum half that it is clinging to.

The pit of small clingstone plums such as Damsons and wild plums can be removed by using a cherry pitter.

Unlike peaches, plums can be canned whole and the pit can be left intact. You’ll still have to remove the pits when you eat the plums so it’s not really a time saver to can whole plums without removing the pits, it just puts off the chore for a while.

If you decide to can whole plums, with or without the pits, you’ll need to pierce the skin with a toothpick, fork or knife to keep the skin from popping. This will give the plums room for expanding and will help them hold their shape in the jars.

plum cut in half with pit removed for canning

Liquid Options for Canning Plums

Plums, like most fruit, are a high acidic food and can be canned in plain water if you want. However some of the flavor and sweetness of the plums will leach out into the water making the canned plums less tasty. Because of this most people can plums in a simple syrup.

I like to use a very light syrup which approximates the natural sweetness of most fruit. To make a very light syrup combine 6 1/2 cups water with 3/4 cup sugar.

A syrup can also be made with honey or maple syrup, if you prefer, just know that it will change the flavor of the canned plums some.

You can also use fruit juice to can plums and will change the flavor some. Apple and grape juice are common choices for canning plums.

Some people like to put a splash of bourbon or rum in their syrup for canning plums to deepen the flavor some.

Adding syrup to canned fruit helps to retain its flavor, color, and shape. It does not prevent spoilage of these foods.

NCHFP website
raw packing plum halves into a canning jar
ladling syrup into canning jar with plum halves

Hot-pack or Raw-pack Methods

Plums can be canned using both the hot-pack or raw-pack method. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll get better results when you hot-pack fruit than when you raw-pack it. I know it sounds counter-intuitive since the fruit is heated longer but it’s true.

This is especially true with stone fruits which tend to get very soft when raw-packed.

Of course, the choice is yours and both ways are safe, approved methods for canning plums.

Raw-Packing Plums

To raw-pack plums, make and bring to a boil the syrup, water, or juice, you will be using. Then prepare the plums by washing, removing the pits if desired, and cutting in half, if desired. Put the raw prepared plums into clean, hot canning jars and cover with the hot syrup, water or juice, leaving a 1/2″ headspace.

When raw-packing the plums, it’s helpful to tilt the jar so that you can arrange them better.

Hot-Packing Plums

To hot-pack plums, make and bring to a boil the syrup, water, or juice you’ll be using. Then prepare the plum by washing, removing the pits if desired, and cutting in half if desired. Put the prepared plums into the boiling syrup and boil for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the plums sit for 20-30 minutes to heat throughout.

Using a slotted spoon, gently put the plums into clean, hot jars and then ladle the hot liquid into the jars leaving a 1/2″ headspace.

cooked plum halves on slotted spoon for canning

How to Can Plums

Plums can be canned using a water bath canner or a pressure canner. I’ve done it both ways and the results were the same. Although the processing time for pressure canning plums is half it is for water bath canning plums, I’ve not found there to be any time savings when you factor in the time it takes for the pressure canner to pressurize and depressurize.

That being said, both ways are safe and approved methods so I’ll share times for both methods.

Step 1: Prepare the canner, jars, and lids

Wash the canner and racks with hot soapy water. If you’re using a water bath canner, fill it 2/3 of the way full with water and put it on the stove over medium heat. If you’re using a pressure canner, fill it with the amount of water recommended by the manufacturer and put it on the stove over medium heat.

Wash the jars with hot soapy water. I think it’s easier to use wide mouth jars rather than regular mouth jars for canning plums. The jars don’t need to be sterilized since they will be process for 10 minutes or longer. But they do need to stay hot, so I put them in the canner with the hot water until it’s time to fill them.

Wash the lids with hot soapy water. Most metal lids do not need to be kept hot before using, however, read the side of the box if you are unsure if your lids do. If you’re using Harvest Guard reusable lids, they need to be simmered in hot water immediately prior to being used.

Step 2: Prepare the Syrup and Plums

Prepare the syrup, water, or juice that you’ll be using for canning the plums. Put it on the stove and heat to a boil.

Prepare the plums by washing and removing the pits, if desired. If you are canning whole plums, prick the skin a few times to allow room for expansion. Cut plums in half if you want to can halves.

Step 3: Fill the Jars

Remove the jars from the canner or wherever you had them to stay hot. Pack the plums into the jars using the hot-pack or raw pack method outlined above. Don’t squish or press the plums down as they will lose their shape.

Pour the syrup into the jars and leave a 1/2″ headspace. Using a bubble removal tool, gently remove air bubbles from the jars. Recheck the headspace and add more syrup is necessary to keep the 1/2″ headspace.

If you have any extra syrup, it can be canned by itself. We like to make plum lemonade with our extra syrup.

Put the lids and bands on the jars.

Step 4: Process the Jars

Put the filled jars into the canner.

If you’re using a water bath canner, the water needs to cover the jars by at least 1″. If it doesn’t, you need to add more water. Bring the water to a boil and boil for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.

Adjust the processing time for higher elevations.

  • For 1,000 to 3,000 feet -Process 25 minutes for pints and 30 minutes for quarts.
  • For 3,000 to 6,000 feet -Process 30 minutes for pints and 35 minutes for quarts.
  • Over 6,000 feet -Process 35 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts.

If you’re using a pressure canner, follow the manufacturers instructions for pressurizing the canner.

For weighted gauge pressure canners, process for 10 minutes at 5 psi for elevations up to 1000 feet. For elevations above 1000 feet, process for 10 minutes at 10 psi.

For a dial gauge pressure canner process for 10 minutes using the pressures listed below

  • For 0 – 2,000 feet – 6psi
  • For 2,000 to 4,000 feet – 7psi
  • For 4,000 to 6,000 feet -8psi
  • Over 6,000 feet – 9psi

Once the processing is complete, remove the jars and let them cool on a towel on the counter for 12-24 hours. If you’re using a pressure canner, make sure to let the canner completely depressurize naturally before opening it.

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Yield: 7 quart jars

Canning Plums

open jars of home canned plums
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 14 pounds plums
  • 16 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar

Instructions

  1. Wash canner, jars, and lids. Prepare water bath canner by filling 2/3 full of hot water. Prepare pressure canner by adding the amount of water recommended by the manufacturer.
  2. Put the canner on the stove and heat over medium heat. Put the jars in the canner to keep them hot.
  3. Combine the water and sugar in a large stock pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
  4. Wash the plums. Prepare the plums by removing the pits if desired. If canning whole plums, prick the skin a few times. Cut plums in half for canning plum halves.
  5. For hot packing the plums, put the prepared plums into the stockpot of boiling syrup and boil for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let them sit for 20-30 minutes to heat thoroughly.
  6. Pack the raw or heated plums into the hot jars.
  7. Ladle the syrup into the jars leaving a 1/2" headspace.
  8. Add lids and bands to jars.
  9. Put the jars into the canner and process according the information below.
  10. Once the processing is complete, remove the jars from the canner and allow to cool 12-24 hours on a towel on the counter.
  11. Once the jars are completely cooled, check the seals to make sure they all sealed correctly. If any didn't you can put them in the refrigerator to use within a week.
  12. Label the jars and store in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year.


Processing Time for Canning Plums

If you're using a water bath canner, the water needs to cover the jars by at least 1". If it doesn't, you need to add more water. Bring the water to a boil and boil for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.

Adjust the processing time for higher elevations.

  • For 1,000 to 3,000 feet -Process 25 minutes for pints and 30 minutes for quarts.
  • For 3,000 to 6,000 feet -Process 30 minutes for pints and 35 minutes for quarts.
  • Over 6,000 feet -Process 35 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts.

If you're using a pressure canner, follow the manufacturers instructions for pressurizing the canner.

For weighted gauge pressure canners, process for 10 minutes at 5 psi for elevations up to 1000 feet. For elevations above 1000 feet, process for 10 minutes at 10 psi.

For a dial gauge pressure canner process for 10 minutes using the pressures listed below

  • For 0 - 2,000 feet - 6psi
  • For 2,000 to 4,000 feet - 7psi
  • For 4,000 to 6,000 feet -8psi
  • Over 6,000 feet - 9psi

Make sure to let the canner completely depressurize naturally before opening it.

home canned jar of canned plums with a fresh plum beside it

Other Ways to Use and Preserve Plums

Make the most of plum season by making some of these plum recipes…

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