Plums in a Jar: Spicy, Spirited Keepers!

canning sugar syrup

Italian prune plums in jars

I’m a man who’s a fan of things to can, a preserve practitioner ready to bottle up summer sweet things at a moment’s notice or as availability allows. So when the folks at the asked me to be a CANbassador, delivering a case of succulent Washington state plums, peaches and nectarines along with the question, “What can you do with these?” my brain simmered like a stock pot of steaming chutney.

Sweet Preservation Canning AmbassadorAs you can see, I take my responsibilities as Canbassador quite seriously. (Too bad I don’t have a staff or  a budget.)

plum still life After scorching my cerebral resources, I turned to my larder of dogeared cookbooks and found this enticing recipe from the River Cottage Handbook No. 2: Preserves (by Pam Corbin): Spiced Brandy Plums.  Spices, liquor, and fruit, what’s not to like? Of course, I had to add a couple of other things just for good measure. (Monotype print above by Vashon artist Brian Fisher)canning sugar syrupRECIPE: Spiced Brandy Plums

Makes 5 pint jars

  • 2-3 pounds of European plums (like Italian prune, Imperial Epineuse, Green Gage, etc.)
  • 1 cup of honey
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • 1/2 cup of brandy
  • 5 cinnamon sticks
  • 5 star anise
  • 1″ knob of ginger root, sliced (optional)
  • 15 cloves (optional)


Brandy Syrup

  1. Add honey to water and heat until it dissolves and is a uniform liquid
  2. Add orange juice, orange zest and brandy to solution
  3. Remove from heat and set aside.


  1. Wash and halve plums, remove pits and stems
  2. Place plums sliced side down in the jars, overlapping
  3. Fill jar with plums up to 1″ from top
  4. Add 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise, 1 ginger slice and 3 cloves to each jar


  1. Pour warm syrup over fruit leaving 1″ head space
  2. Gently press on plums to remove air bubbles
  3. Seal and process in a water bath for 20 minutes, gentle simmer
  4. Instructions on water bath canning.

In the cold of winter when the days are dark and the fireplace flickers brightly, I’ll enjoy this nightcap in a bowl. Nothing like a little sweetness and brandy to spice up a fellow’s dreams and state of hibernation.

Enjoy, and don’t forget to visit, for more canning ideas.


  1. Janet, thanks Janet, and here’s to a mild winter for New Zealand.

    Kristin, I wouldn’t even bother with a resume and interview, just head on over in your work togs.

    Ina, I second that, with ice cream and maybe a shortbread cookie or two or three.

  2. They’re just so darned pretty! I would just put them out as art.

    I will admit to lusting after those Weck jars mentioned Step away from the jars Stephanie!

  3. Stephanie, I agree the Weck jars are exceptional, good looking, no need to buy goofy lids every year and easy to seal. If only you could find those at garage sales.

  4. Hi Tom,
    I thought this recipe was perfect for my first foray into canning. Sadly, none of my jars sealed. As an expert canner, can I ask you for some advice? Can I reprocess this batch without losing flavor, or would I be better off buying another handle of brandy and more plums? In either case, do you have any tips for what to do differently this time, first-timer mistakes not to make?


  5. Just made 5 wonderful jars of plums, and cracked one open to try. Great on ice cream. A truly great dessert which I will be happy to share to friends over the holidays.

  6. it has been a bumper year for plums and though I can eat 8-10 of them per day the pile was pretty big. Thanks for the recipe, I will be sharing these with friends & neighbors at the holidays

  7. Gorgeous.
    It’s too early for me to make these delicious plumps in jars. When they come on stalls with the relish of summer I’ll …
    I’ve already keep the recipe, thanks.

  8. I was given ALOT of wild plums. I am not sure what all I can do with them. Do you think this recipe will work using them? and how long does this recipe last on a shelf -my son is a Marine and I am looking for different things that I can put up so that when he comes home he can take some with him.

    • Hi Angela, this recipe has a great shelf life if sealed in a hot water bath like most canning recipes. I think the brandy helps! 😉 I think the recipe will work with wild plums, though they generally are cling stone fruit so you might just can the whole. You could also try this pickle recipe I use for bing cherries, but one that I know will work nicely with wild plums: . These are really good keepers, thanks to the vinegar. Good luck and I salute your son’s service and wish him a safe homecoming.

  9. Hi Tom, This recipe sounds and looks beautiful. My freezer is still full of plums from last year, 3 different varieties. Do you think this would work on them or do they need to be fresh? It would be great if I could find another way to use and store them.

    • Hi Maria, I bet it would work, but with a little different result. I would thaw the plums, soak them in the solution and pack them tight in the jars, as if prunes, and then add more solution to cover the plums, then waterbath. You’d have more of a soft compote-like fruit but you could in addition to eating them plain, bake with them too. I say give it a try and report back. 🙂 (Easy for me to say.)

    • Hi Penni, you can eat them right away, but the vinegar bite is a wee bit sharp. I like to wait at least a couple months to mellow out and meld the flavors.


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