My life dramatically changed after almost three months of being sugar free. Except for a glowing skin, I didn’t notice much of a difference while I was off any kind of processed sugars, but it’s what happened next that got my attention. Not only did I not crave any sweets, but my sensitivity to any type of food with processed sugars increased to such an extent that it almost became a sort of a nuisance. I can’t even eat a small piece of the best Belgian chocolate without being overwhelmed with a sensation of heaviness, of over-exceeding sweetness. It’s the same feeling I got when I used to eat half a pan of brownies, go figure.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining. I just… I’m amazed. You see, that doesn’t happen if one stops eating apples for three months. You don’t eat a first apple after two months and just go bleah. It’s a sad truth for the baker in me, for the pastry chef in me that is screaming on the inside, craving to make Pavlovas or macarons or fancy seven-layer cakes. But if that has to go for my body to be happier and healthier, so be it.
In my panoply of sugar-free recipes, this plum jam reigns supreme. It’s been in my family since forever and it has now become my favourite ultimate morning delight. I like to spread it on a slice of soft-buttered sourdough bread or some (guilty!) viennoiserie and eat it like it’s nobody’s business. It’s hard not to – it has a very specific sweet-tart taste, perfectly balanced so that it doesn’t gross anyone out.
The method is quite simple, but it does take some patience to make. One has to find the sweetest, softest, ripest plums, core them, slice them in large chunks, put them in a heavy-bottomed pot and simply simmer them on a medium flame into the thickest jam. At the beginning, there’s not much stirring involved: the plums will start to soften and release their juices and it will all smell and feel fantastic. After a while, the liquid will start to evaporate and the jam will start to thicken: that’s when it needs your undivided attention and stirring. In the final stages, you’ll see that you have to stir almost all the time or otherwise it’ll stick to the bottom of your pan. If it has drastically changed in colour and has become really thick, that’s when you know it’s done.
The time to make this jam varies according to the amount of plums used: the less plums, the shorter the time – the more plums, the longer the wait. For instance, for 3 pounds of plums you might wait for an hour or so, but you’ll only get a tiny jar of jam, maybe a family’s serving for a day. For 15 pounds you might wait as much as four hours, but it will be worth it. What you do need to know is that, at the end of this entire process, you’ll be left off with a much smaller batch than what you started with, even less than a half. I like to mix the jam with walnuts and maybe add a crushed aspirin if I plan to keep it for longer periods in the pantry: it helps with the preservation. The jam goes, without saying, into sterilised jars and will keep for very long years if stored properly in a dark, cool place.
I just made one batch today and the taste and smell were amazing, I ate one jar all by myself, without feeling any guilt at all :) Life’s good when you’re off the processed sugars roller coaster!
Love and plums!
42 thoughts on “How to make sugar-free plum jam”
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What is the action of the walnuts? Do you think I could use anything else? These would be the one nut I have a strong allergy to. Thanks
Sarah, the walnuts are there just for the taste, nothing else. They are absolutely incredible in this combo. If you’re allergic, just skip them and that’s it. It’ll be great anyways :)
Hope you’ll like it!
Sorry to comment on something that’s months old but I found this whilst looking for a sugar free plum jam recipe. The wild plums near me (2 varieties, red ones and gold “mirabelle” ones) are just coming in now and there are masses of them. Not enough people eat them and there’s too much for wildlife, so I thought I’d give jam making a go.
Am I reading this right? You just chop and cook them until they turn into jam? No apple juice or anything else?
I also thought that, being a wild variety, they may turn out a little too tart. Would you add an artificial sweetener, or can you suggest a good natural substitute?
Hei Jo, it’s never old if it’s plum season! :) Yes, you’re reading it right: this plum jam is made of nothing but chopped plums cooked to perfection, no other additives needed. The variety we use in Eastern Europe is perfect for this, I’m not sure about other types of plums, but I guess the only secret to it is to have really, really, really ripe plums, they should be soft to the touch and full of juice. If I were you, I’d give it a go using red plums and start off with a small batch because it’ll get cooked faster and you won’t waste too much produce if it doesn’t work out.
If you do try it, please leave me a message and tell me about the results, it would be interesting to know if this recipe works for other varieties as well! Good luck!
I’ve never heard of using crushed aspirin to preserve jam!
can you say a bit more about it?
How does it work?
I try to avoid pain relievers for so what would be a natural alternative?
Hi Am. I know my answer comes very-very late (so sorry for that, I was on a long blog-break) but yes, we use crushed aspirin to preserve jam here in Romania, we’ve been doing that for basically… ages :) Because this jam has no sugar, aspirin prevents it from going rotten but if you’d rather avoid pain relievers than just skip it and make sure to keep the jars in a cool, dark place. It also helps if you eat them within the year, they won’t keep for that much without the aspirin. It doesn’t bother me to use aspirin to preserve the integrity of my jam batch, it’s in a very small amount.
I sliced a cut in my batch of plums put them in my wife’s power cooker for 15 minutes removed the seeds and another 15 minutes more in the new style pressure cooker and left the stem hole open the hole time and had the best jam I ever made added Splenda because I like it like desert and wow how quick easy and cant stop eating it ! all in under 1 hour I cant wait to perfect this method I then sweetened some sour cream with Splenda and used it to swirl in my plum jam tonight I will try sweet cream cheese instead of sour cream
I have several pounds of Italian prune plums. I’m thrilled to try making jam without sugar as the plums are already so sweet. What do you think about putting the plums in a crock pot slow cooker overnight? Would they be too cooked? Thanks!
Hi Melissa. Sorry for the veeeeery late reply, as I said above, I was on a very long blog-break. I don’t know about the slow cooker, to be honest I’ve never used it for jams so I don’t know what to say, except that the only thing that could go wrong is that the jam would get real thick. By the way, have you tried that? If you did, I’d love to hear how that went.
Hi Andi, I did make the jam in the crockpot. I had picked the plums early so they were not super sweet so I did end up adding about a cup of sugar for eight cups of chopped plums. I would assume had the plums been riper and sweeter, this would not have been necessary. The crockpot was very easy. I started it on high heat, occasionally stirring, after five hours I switched to low heat and cooked another five hours. Yes it took a long cooking time but it was so easy and the end product is delicious! The eight cups made about 3 cups. I plan to serve it warm with a pork tenderloin at a party this weekend. Thank you! I am going to try to freeze bags of chopped plums for jam and plum bread. Works for tomatoes and bananas so hopefully it will work for plums. I just throw them in a baggie and put them in the freezer.
Hey Andie! Thanks for the beautiful post! I am about to make a big batch of wild Californian cherry plum preserves! :) I am just wondering if you put your Mason jars in a water bath to make them shelf stable. If you could give a little more detail on that, I would greatly appreciate it! -Sarah
Hi Sarah! I usually put them in the dishwasher (no detergent) and give them a nice, hot bath (60-70 C/140-160 F), then use them immediately for the jam. I love that the dishwasher sterilises the jars at high temps and then it also dries them. Alternatively, I put them in a tray in the warm oven (usually the lowest temp) and keep them there for about 15-20 minutes, till they become warm (making sure they don’t crack because of the heat though). My mom usually pours the thick hot jam in the jars the moment she makes it but doesn’t put the lid on until the next day – she says that’s the secret :)) Can’t fight tradition!
Great recipe! We used 1/2 of the juice of lemon in lieu of the aspirin. Tastes great- sweet and tart! Thanks for the great recipe!
Christina, great idea with the lemon juice. So happy it was useful and you liked it :)
Hi Andie. Your recipe is fantastic. I have a three species plum tree (grafted), two types of red plums and mirabelles. The tree produced a huge amount of fruit – over 300lbs., mostly mirabelles. After making jam for the whole neighborhood I was about to throw the rest out – hate that. Than I found your recipe and gave it a try. I didn’t even pit them, just cut their skin with a sharp knive and put them into the a stainless steel pot with some lemon juice and started boiling them. I took out the pits with a slotted spoon before the plums started to thicken up. Fast forward – it actually took seveal days of boiling and cooling off before I had the consistency of jam. The result was worth every minute. Thank you – Julia
Julia, I’m so, so happy to hear that. The idea of leaving the pits in is nothing new, my mum usually does that because she thinks it adds to the flavor :) It took you so long because the batches were large, right? Anyway, I can’t believe how successful this recipe is, it’s been in my family for generations, it’s crazy :)
Hi Andie, I am so happy you put your story and recipe online. I tried it and love it. What I did was put a wire rack under the pot and simmered on low for a few hours. My husband finds it a bit tart so I added a tiny amount of sugar but it is so much better than making it with pectin. They call or 7 1/2 cups sugar to 4 1/2 cups plums. I couldn’t imagine making jam with more sugar than fruit. I love your method.
Recipes are for tackling, right? :) The whole point is to adapt it to your taste, so glad that you and your family liked it in the end :)
I have a tree-full of Italian prune plums right now (near Rome!) and am looking at your recipe. It says in sterilized jars the jam can keep for years, but then says to eat it within the year if not using aspirin, did I understand that correctly? How long will it keep in the fridge once you open a jar?
Thank you! I agree, it is a shame to add sugar to already-sweet fruit! I like to taste the fruit!
Hei Joanne, you got it right: it can keep for years if stored in sterilised jars with aspirin, but if not using some form of preservative than it’s a bit of a lottery. It happened to me one year that I didn’t use aspirin and had minor problems with some of the jars, that’s why I felt like adding this advice, you know, just to be absolutely sure. If you open a jar and keep it in the fridge, it can last for a couple of weeks or so. But you know what the fun part is? Even if I see that fungus (mildew) forms on top, I just remove it with a spoon and continue eating the rest of the jam no problem. I don’t recommend it so please, please take it with a grain of salt, but I’m just saying that we’ve been doing that for generations no problem.
Hi there, this is a really late addition.
Your next-door neighbours (in Hungary) traditionally made their plum jam in the wood-fired oven in large earthenware jars, until it was rock hard. No sugar, no preservatives (although as my doctor prescribes me aspirin anyhow I’m tempted to try out your recipe!). They covered it with a cloth, tied with string. It lasted forever – my Hungarian wife’s grandma’s jam was still perfectly edible years after she had died. But nobody I have met in Hungary – and I’ve been living here many years – has ever heard of putting walnuts in their plum jam, which I do, as I think it vastly improves the flavour (if you like walnut, of course). Not only that, but the walnut flavour permeates with time, so the jam actually improves with age!
Hi Andy, actually my grandmother was Hungarian and I used to live in Budapest for a while :) However, the walnut addition comes from my Wallachian grandmother, born and raised in the south of Romania where plum trees are everywhere, literally everywhere. If she were to make plum jam the “Hungarian way” (which actually I think is the East-European way) we would no longer call it jam, but rather… marmalade :))) Oh, good old traditions…
Hi Andi, I’m trying out your recipe today as I received a bag of plums from a neighbor in California. In reading through the reviews/questions, I was thrilled to read you live in Romania! I am half Romanian, but know very little about about my heritage going back to Romania, where my grandparents (who both died while my mom was still a young teenager) had come to the USA as a young married couple.
If you are willing I would like to ask you questions about Romania and places to visit, as I was beginning to gather information before the Coronavirus came into being in our world…
I so hope you are still on this website!
This sounds amazing. I’m thinking I would still water bath can them, just to make sure they seal well. I guess that’s the food safety instructor in me. Thanks for all of the info on this. It sounds amazing!
Hei Chris, thanks so much for stopping by. Definitely water baths make them safer :) I really do hope you enjoyed the recipe and hope you’ll drop by for more. If I keep posting, that is :)))
How much aspirin do you use and is it in each jar of when you make the batch? Looking forward to making my first batch,
Hi Colin, I use one or maybe two aspirins per batch, depending on the size. I just add it in the pot after it cools down a bit and then the jam goes into the jars.
Hi Andie, I am big fan of plum jam and am following your recipe and being a big fan and user of ASA I want to add it to the mix. How much of aspirin would I need for each pound or kilo of finished jam?
Hi Jonathan, I’d say around one aspirin per 2 kilos of finished jam.
Hi, I am making plum jam with your lovely simple recipe minus the aspirin as my huge family eats the jam within the week, but I have added cloves, star anise and two organic chopped apples. I am also making it in the slow cooker.
I have added small amt of black pepper and balsemic vinegar and some coconut sugar to a thick plum concentrate! This makes an amazing sorbet when frozen!!
I am looking forward to trying your recipe, with my wild plums – but am doubtful about using aspirin. I’m posting this info in the interest of safety for aspirin sensitive folks. Safe alternatives are lemon juice and citric acid. Below is from Penn State University at: http://extension.psu.edu/food/preservation/tools/supplies/ingredients/ingredients-used-in-home-food-preservation
“Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid, should only be used for its intended purpose – Never to acidify foods. Some people have a bad reaction to aspirin and its acidification properties vary depending on its strength.http://extension.psu.edu/food/preservation/tools/supplies/ingredients/ingredients-used-in-home-food-preservation
Lemon juice is another natural acidulent commonly used in home food preservation. To assure safe acidity in whole, crushed, or juiced tomatoes, add 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice per quart of tomatoes or 1 tablespoon per pint. An alternative to lemon juice for acidifying tomatoes is citric acid (see below)
Citric acid is usually sold as a white crystalline powder. It can safety be used to acidify foods if used correctly. To acidify the canned tomatoes described above, citric acid may be used instead of lemon juice. Add 1⁄2 teaspoon per quart or 1⁄4 teaspoon per pint. Citric acid is also used to preserve the color of fresh cut fruit or as a pre-treatment for frozen and dried fruit (see color preservative section).”
Do you think this would work with any overripe fruit? Or only stone fruits? I’m thinking specifically about berries. Love the idea of jam without added sugars.
Hi Andie. I tried your recipe on some plums last night. Not sure what i did. wrong. The plums were cooked slowly as to burn them. but they never went thick and after awhile they colour changed to light brown and as i continued to cook the colour went darer brown and still never jelled. I eventually turned the stove off. when the plums cooled i tasted the brew. In the begining i had beautiful sweet juicy yellow/red plums. Now I have a dark brown sour broth in my pot.
[…] in the process. If you can’t find this to buy, either make it using this really nice recipe or replace it with any other thick fruit jam you […]
Hi Andie, can’t wait to try this recipe as my plums are ripe on the tree. Aspirin comes in different mg. Do you put 81mg tablet or 325mg tablet or does it matter? Is there any way to keep the plums chunky like preserves?
Do you water bath can these?
This is absolutely amazing jam. I’m rather late the party, having only just come across your post, but feeling very thankful that I did. I’m sat here eating spoonfuls straight out of the pot! Sticky hot, still chunky, sweet purple plums. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipe which has been in your family for generations. Lucky, lucky people, and now lucky me too!
I second what other have said about adding lemon juice as a preservative alternative.
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Hello! I am going to try the recipe . Can you tell me how much aspirin per pound of plums? 😀