Damson Plum Jam

Recipe by Jenny Sanders

If you are lucky enough to find them, get your hot little hands on some Damson plums. They are small and sour when fresh, but make the absolute best plum jam in the world. I have listed two different options for amounts of sugar/water in the recipe. The lower amounts will make a soft, very tart jam. That's the way I like it. With more sugar and water (keep them in proportion) you will get a more traditional jam, firmer and sweeter. I like it that way, too, I have to admit. Unfortunately, Damsons are clingstone and can't be pitted before the cooking starts. I have burnt myself quite badly a few times making this jam, while fishing out pits from the boiling pot, but this year (2004) I have figured out how to avoid that and have updated the recipe.

Top Review by badgersdrift

I agree with you on most every point. It IS the best jam in the world if it's not over-sweetened, which yours doesn't seem to be. (Though I'm not sure what you mean by 2 litres of plums. Is that whole plums or the puree?) I do batches of 4-5 pounds of fresh plums, cook them in only ~1/2 cup of water (they start exuding their own moisture so quickly, and the more water, the longer it takes to cook the jam down. To this ~8-9 cups of pulp I add only 4-5 cups sugar--the greater amt. if many of the plums are barely ripe and very tart. I heartily agree with your method of removing the pits. It's the easiest way to seed them, and with almost no waste. A food mill is a disaster and trying to seed them raw takes forever and you’ll probably cut your slippery fingers. Put a little bowl close by. Reach into the cooled pulp with one hand and feel for seeds (they're mostly on the bottom), press them w/fingertips--to rub off clinging flesh--one at a time into the fingers of your other hand to drop in bowl. (You’ll get the hang of it. Kinda fun, actually, and doesn't take but 5-10 minutes.) (If I look at the bowl of removed seeds and think too much pulp is clinging to them, I pour about 1/4 cup boiling water over them, rub them around in it to loosen the flesh, pour it all into a mesh strainer over the pot and press out every delicious drop. ) Maybe the reviewer who thought this a "major headache" should consider that this is all one has to do to to tidy little Damsons: no peeling, coring, straining out fine seeds (with lots of waste) as with blackberries. They are almost never bruised, I've never seen insect signs on a single one. A bird nip or two on the tops of a handful, but the birds apparently don't like them because they stop with a nip. I gave your recipe 4 stars and not 5 because I can't imagine why you would put the pulp through a food mill? The delicate shreds of tender skin give the jam an exquisite texture and the pectin is concentrated in the peel. One more thing: I find the sheeting-from-spoon test to be less reliable than keeping 2-3 small saucers in the freezer and testing by the way the jam mounds & if the "Red Sea" stays "parted" when you run a finger through the mound. Thanks for some good tips. Damson's are getting almost impossible to buy in the NE USA, and I live in fear that every year will be the last I can locate some.

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Wash and pick over the plums.
  2. Combine the plums and the water.
  3. Bring to a boil and cook 15 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Allow to cool enough to handle - or completely, if you like - and fish out the pits (I put them through a food mill, and then removed the pits from the remaining pulp).
  5. Return the pulp to the rest of the jam once the pits are out.
  6. Meanwhile, put the jars into a canning kettle and cover with water to one inch above the tops of the jars.
  7. Bring to a boil, boil 10 minutes to sterilize.
  8. Return the plums to the jam kettle, and bring them back to the boil. Add the sugar to the plums, stirring to dissolve.
  9. Boil to jam stage, about 20 minutes. Test for the gelling point with one of the following methods: Temperature test — Use a jelly or candy thermometer, and boil until mixture reaches the following temperatures at altitudes of: Sea level to 1,000 feet — 104°C/220°F; 1,001 feet to 2,000 feet — 103°C/218°F
  10. Sheet or spoon test — Dip a cool metal spoon into the boiling jelly mixture. Raise the spoon out of the steam, about 12 inches above the pan. Turn the spoon so the liquid runs off the side. The jelly is done when the syrup forms two drops that flow together and sheet or hang off the edge of the spoon.
  11. I like the"sheet" test.
  12. As the jam cooks, remove any pits you may have missed.
  13. Remove from the heat and stir and skim 5 minutes.
  14. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal with lids sterilized according to the manufacturers directions.
  15. (Generally, boiled for 5 minutes.) Place jars of jam back in boiling water bath and boil for 5 minutes.
  16. Let cool, and store when the jars have sealed.

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