We have a Santa Rosa plum tree in our backyard that my husband planted about 20 years ago. He loves eating these bitter skinned fruits just picked off the tree, but I don’t like them raw. I guess my tongue just tastes more of the bitterness in the peel than his. Because of this, every year a lot of the fruit falls on the ground and makes a horrible, slimy, fruit fly, snail and slug attracting mess.
I will say, however, that the Santa Rosa plum makes great cobblers! But what a hassle it is to get the pit out of a ripe plum without absolutely mascerating it! I will be honest and say that I have two left thumbs when it comes to using a knife in the kitchen, and have cut myself several times trying to get those stubborn pits out of the plums. 🙁
That is why I love this technique/recipe so much for plum butter! No peeling or seeding! Seriously! The plums peel and seed themselves!
Let me show you:
First gather up a pot full of plums. How many? However many you want! There is no recipe! Isn’t that grand? But, it is very important that you know exactly how many plums you put in the pot. Write it down. Why? I’ll tell you in a little bit. Of course, make sure you wash them first to get any dust or insects off. I also don’t recommend using bird or insect damaged fruit, unless you don’t mind a little extra worm protein in your plum butter! But here is a great place to use some of that fruit that is just a bit over-ripe. Not mushy or moldy, however!
Now add just a little bit of water at the bottom of your pot, probably, lets say, 1/2 cup. This is just to get the whole cooking process started without first scorching the plums. Turn on the stove to medium low. You need to start slow. After a few minutes, stir the plums from the bottom up to the top. You will see that some of them have started to get really mushy and loose some of their juice. Keep doing this about every 5 minutes. Make sure the plums aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot and are not scorching. There is nothing worse than scorched plum butter.
Once most of the plums are really mushy, get out your potato masher. Yes, your potato masher. Seriously! Mash your plums. This gets the whole process going faster. By now you will see some of those purple skins floating around. Fish them out – the plums are peeling themselves! You can leave for a few minutes, then come back and stir (remember you don’t want it to scorch!), fish out a few more skins, then stir again.
By this time – about 1/2 hour into the process (more or less) depending on how many plums you have and how ripe they were to begin with, you will notice little lumps come up from the bottom as you stir. These are the pits. Fish them out! Now, here is why you counted the number of plums you started with – every plum has a pit. If you know how many plums you started with, you know you have all the pits when you reach that same number! Simple! 😀
Now, here comes a step you can do if you want to, but you don’t have to: once all the pits are out you can pour the whole hot mess into your blender and blend for a few seconds. This step isn’t necessary, but it does make a smoother butter in the end.
At this point you can decide for yourself if you want to stand over a hot stove for the next 2-4 hours (depending on how many plums you started with an how ripe they were), or pour the whole pot into the crockpot and let it finish in there. Your choice. I am always looking for the easiest technique possible, so I choose the crockpot method.
If you leave it on the stove, be aware that you will need to stir the pot about every 10 minutes to prevent the butter from scorching. As the butter gets thicker, you need to stir more often. In the crockpot, set the temperature as low as possible, leave the top off or on the side, and stir about every 20-30 minutes. Either way, what you are doing is thickening the plum pulp by evaporating off the water.
How do you know it’s done? When it is starts to get to a pancake batter consistency. To check for doneness, plop a drop on a plate. If the water does not separate out after a few minutes, it’s done!
Now you add sweetener. Taste that plop you put on the plate first. It shouldn’t be as hot as molten lava anymore, so you can actually taste it. Do you really need sweetener? If so, you can add either cane sugar, honey, stevia or brown sugar. I think you can even use an articifical sweetener (gasp) but I certainly wouldn’t! Add the sweetener to taste. Start with a little and add more if you need it. Most people agree, however, that plum better is better when it is still slightly tart! My pot full eventually cooked down to 3 pints of plum butter, so I added 1/2 cup of delicious Blackberry Honey. I thought it would go well with the plums, and it certainly did. We got that honey (and a wildflower honey also) while we attended a workshop on beekeeping by Gerard Z’s Honeybees that was held at Retzlaff Winery in Livermore, California. The workshop also included wine tasting. You can read about that HERE. Such a nice afternoon, but I reminisce…………..
At this point you are ready to jar your delicious plum butter, aka nectar of the gods. Make sure it is still piping hot and ladle the butter carefully (try not to incorporate air pockets or bubbles) into jars that you have sterilized. Place your hot lids on top and screw on the bands just finger tight if you are using Tattler lids (the white ones) and just a bit tighter with the metal lids. Process for 10 minutes for both pints and half-pints in a boiling water bath.
You’re done! Just let them cool down naturally on your kitchen counter (I put a towel under the jars because I have a cold stone countertop – I don’t want the jars to shatter) where it isn’t too drafty. When cooled, check the seals. If any jars didn’t seal properly, just put them in the refrigerator and eat those first!
My grand niece, Tierra, married the love of her life, Connor, this past June. As part of the wedding decorations/gifts for guests, they gave out some cute canning jars that were decorated with ribbons and bows, a silver bell and a cute poem. I decided to fill the one I got with some plum butter and give to the newlyweds!
I hope they like it!
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