Make Ahead

PlumĀ Butter

August  2, 2010
1 Ratings
  • Makes about 3 pints
Author Notes

Growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, I ate lots of apple butter, enjoying its spicy rich flavor. This summer I've been having fun using seasonal fruit to make jam and chutney. Plums are at their best now, so I decided to try a "butter". Epicurious provided a skeleton recipe but I added ingredients and adjusted cooking times to insure success. If you are new to canning, this recipe is perfect for your debut. Pick up a book on canning basics, such as the Ball "Blue Book of Preserves". Your local grocery store will sell cases of jars that include lids, screw tops and labels. For me, canning is a satisfying and comforting experience, reminding me of summers past when women in my family would "put up" their jam, chutney, tomatoes and pickles. —Lizthechef

What You'll Need
  • 4 pounds ripe plums, any color
  • 3 cups organic cane or white sugar
  • zest and juice of one Meyer lemon (or any lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)
  1. Freeze two small plates or saucers for testing later.
  2. Pit and cut plums into eighths. Set aside.
  3. Zest and juice the lemon. Add to plums.
  4. In a large Dutch oven, add the chopped plums and all other ingredients except for the Grand Marnier. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook until fruit is very tender, about 15 minutes.
  5. Discard the vanilla bean. Using a food processor, puree batches of the butter, taking care not to over-process. Return pureed butter to Dutch oven.
  6. Cook butter over low heat for about two hours, stirring frequently to prevent butter from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Test for "doneness" by using one of the saucers. Spoon a little butter on it and tilt the plate. Butter should do a slow slide rather than a quick run off.
  7. Turn off the heat, move pot to a cool burner. Stir in the Grand Marnier.
  8. Funnel into sterile jars and process in hot water bath for 15 minutes, using safe canning procedures.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • aliyaleekong
  • Lizthechef
  • Kelsey Banfield
    Kelsey Banfield
  • AntoniaJames
  • thirschfeld

43 Reviews

emcsull March 20, 2017
what a lovely picture -!! Really made my day.
Alice T. August 27, 2014
Canning is made easier if you use a steamer oven, like Miele's pressured steamer oven that takes it up to 120 degrees Celsius, if you want that. Timing is automatic and processing is quick. Also prune eau de vie might be nice as addition, less sweet and following better in flavor.
Susan11 June 19, 2011
Divine! And such a magnificent photo!
aliyaleekong August 18, 2010
How heavenly! This is a beautiful recipe - i am so making some so i can enjoy summer plums in the dead of winter!
Lizthechef August 5, 2010
Final thoughts, this is a recipe I submitted to encourage folks to try "canning". After 3 batches, I feel confident in my assertion that this is a successful recipe and easier than any jam recipe I have tried to date. I don't expect to win any medals, just hope that one cook might try it and think that canning is cool.
Lizthechef August 4, 2010
Thank you, dymnyno, for your thoughtful comments, totally in line with my thinking. I want to offer an easy, safe recipe for a delicious result and continue to feel my posting reflects that.Amen.
Lizthechef August 4, 2010
Exhausted from trying a third time tonight PDT - worked fine. The end, Liz
Kelsey B. August 4, 2010
Great recipe and I LOVE the picture! I could totally see this butter on a nice slice of grilled pound cake. :)
Lizthechef August 4, 2010
Thanks Kelsey, as you are so attuned to clean, simple flavors in recipes that "work".
Lizthechef August 4, 2010
ps Which photo do you like?
Kelsey B. August 5, 2010
I love your family photo, it is so sweet!
AntoniaJames August 4, 2010
I tried making this yesterday and found out, a bit too late as it were, that my plums had a high level of natural pectin in them. Some plums do. Others don't. After cooking the butter down, it was like thin jam (gummy, and not at all like a fruit butter or fruit paste). I had added a pinch of cardamom (and no cinnamon or vanilla), thinking that I might want to use this butter in some savory sauces in which the other spices but limit or conflict with those in the recipe. I did not dispair. After all, I have several dozen jars of plum, plum/pluot, plum/nectarine and plum/peach jam already made. I put this mixture up in 4 ounce jars and plan to use it as the base of Asian-style and plum/port/thyme sauces, to brighten things up in the dead of winter. I can see adding garlic, ginger, lime juice and a touch of tamari to create a heavenly lacquer for tofu or glaze for broiled chicken. ;o)
MyCommunalTable August 4, 2010
I did not even know about the difference in plums. Are there certain things I should ask about when I am at the market? I love the idea of making it into an asian influenced sauce. I have heated up organic tofu slowly in a water bath and taken it out of water, then topped with szechuan pepper sauce from gourmet mag. Delicious, but pepper and plum sauce would be great. Thanks all you ladies for teaching me stuff everyday.
AntoniaJames August 4, 2010
Unless the person from whom you are buying the plums has actually used a particular variety of plum to make a jam or jelly (or knows someone well who has), you probably aren't going to get much, if any, useful information. Frankly, it seems to be hit or miss . . . . I've found that certain red plums have a high pectin content, but there are about five or six different plums that look red. Also, some plums from the same orchard can have more pectin than other plums from trees of the same variety. You can test the pectin content of any fruit (or homemade pectin, for that matter) by putting a teaspoon of cooked fruit into a small jar with a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol, shake gently, then wait about five minutes. If the fruit creates a hard gel that is a bit like a clot that you can pick up in one piece with a fork, the pectin content is high, e.g., will gel. After testing, throw it out, immediately, so someone doesn't drink or eat what's in the jar, which of course is poisonous. I should have tested for pectin before cooking down my plum mixture yesterday. There's a good Asian plum sauce recipe in the "Complete Book of Home Preserving," a cookbook published a few years ago by the Ball canning jar company. It might also be in the "Ball Blue Book." (I don't have either handy, otherwise I'd confirm.) I made some earlier this summer, but left out the hot peppers and used a lot more fresh ginger than the recipe calls for, because I don't care for peppers, but like a bit of heat, which fresh ginger provides; I also used more garlic and added a pinch of allspice. I'm going to use my failed plum butter for experimenting with other spice/flavor combinations.
Lizthechef August 4, 2010
I have made two batches of this now and not had that experience. The plums I used are those you see in my photo, on sale for 99 cents per pound this week at Ralph's, my local supermarket. Nothing special and readily available throughout much of the country. Sorry you had a bad experience but I stand by my recipe.
AntoniaJames August 4, 2010
I'm not suggesting that there is anything wrong with the recipe, just that certain characteristics in some varieties of fruit may affect the results. That's a given though,
which may be known by people who have used plums in jam making, but may not be known by everyone here. ;o)
dymnyno August 4, 2010
AJ, I think all of us who can regularly find out that there is an art to canning. There are rules but depending on the fruit, rules have to be bent to acomodate the recipe. If your plums did not work in Liz's recipe it is unfair to criticize it for that reason. She says that she tested and retested the recipe. We have to trust her just as we take that leap of faith with your recipes and everyone else's on Food52. If you changed her recipe to make it for another use that really undermines the basic recipe. If canning was a precise science there would not be as many books on the subject as there are... and I probably would not own as many as I do...always looking for the secret method!
AntoniaJames August 4, 2010
I actually wasn't criticizing the recipe. In fact, in my second comment, I even said that there was nothing wrong with the recipe, but just wanted to share my experience, to let others know that the fact that some plums are very high in pectin may affect the results.
AntoniaJames August 4, 2010
Actually, it was my third comment, in which I said (consistently with the other two comments), "I'm not suggesting that there is anything wrong with the recipe, just that certain characteristics in some varieties of fruit may affect the results." That seems like something that would interest other cooks. It certainly would interest me, if I didn't know it already. Again, though, it's not about the recipe. It's about plums, and a risk you take when using certain varieties in jams, butters, sauces, etc.

thirschfeld August 4, 2010
I can so see smearing this across some crepes with whipped cream.
Lizthechef August 4, 2010
You makes the crepes and I'll bring the plum butter ;)
Midge August 4, 2010
Sounds great. Look forward to trying this with prune plums.
Lizthechef August 4, 2010
Let me know how you like it - thank you!
la F. August 3, 2010
Liz, my family is begging me to make this.
Lizthechef August 3, 2010
Who am I to argue ;) - enjoy, if you try it out.
lapadia August 3, 2010
Yum! Cool picture!
MyCommunalTable August 2, 2010
Love the ginger and grand marnier in this recipe. You are inspiration to get me canning. I have only done tomatoes and just a few jams. Now I am getting the fever. I want my shelves filled for the winter. (We will see, if I get that done) Love the picture of you and your women folk. It is so cute that your mom is kissing your gramma in this picture. I bet it is one of your favorites.
Lizthechef August 3, 2010
Yes, it is a favorite photo of mine! Good luck with canning - this "set up" well, very quickly, and was as easy as the jams I have tried so far.
TheWimpyVegetarian August 2, 2010
I can't wait to make this! I LOVE apple butter but never thought to do it with plums. I've done some canning and want to do a lot more. The Grand Marnier is a perfect addition! And I love the photo of you, your mom and grandma.
Lizthechef August 2, 2010
Thanks so much - it is good enough that we have eaten half a jar just with our spoons. Glad you enjoyed the photo too.
AntoniaJames August 2, 2010
Love this recipe and plan to try it!! And the photo of the three of you. Thanks for posting this! ;o)
themissingingredient August 2, 2010
Very thoughtful recipe. Definitely two thumbs up!!!
Jaynerly August 2, 2010
This sounds delicious. I will definitely be making some!
dymnyno August 2, 2010
Great recipe!!! I love the addition of Grand Marnier. Nice Pic!! You are inspiring me to get back to canning.
drbabs August 2, 2010
Finally we get to see what you look like! Great picture and wonderful recipe!
Lizthechef August 2, 2010
It's an old photo...Wanted to include my first canning "teachers".
MrsWheelbarrow August 2, 2010
I'm delighted to see this recipe and plan to put up a batch soon.Thanks so much, Liz.
Lizthechef August 2, 2010
Thank YOU, says the student to the teacher, for all your tutorials and support...