Beach plums will forever remind me of my grandmother. Every September when I was little, we would head out, baskets in hand. This year was the kind that Grandma and I would have killed for, with an explosion of ripe purple plums dotting the dunes. So, for the first time since I was young, I started down the lane, this time with my own children, to pick fruit for beach plum jam.
To make beach plum jam, I used a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks: Cape Cod Table; $7.98 from Amazon. See the recipe below.
Photographs by Justine Hand for Gardenista.
Above: Ripe beach plums (Prunus maritima) grace a beach path on Cape Cod.
Native to the eastern US, these hardy deciduous shrubs love the sandy, dry soil of the dunes, making them excellent for erosion control. Those interested in hardy shrubs for seaside gardens may also be interested to know that, besides edible fruit, beach plum bushes have lovely little white flowers that bloom on silver branches in the early spring.
Above: Ripe plums are deep purple as opposed to pink. They should come off the stem easily and be fairly sweet, though a slight bitter taste is normal.
Above: As my son Oliver demonstrates, it’s easy for people of all ages to harvest fruit from these low lying shrubs.
Above: Our haul. You need about 5 pounds of fruit (the equivalent of about two large zip lock bags) to make one batch of jam, yielding nine jars.
Above: Once home, we washed our plums and picked out leaves and twigs.
Above: Cooking the plums and orange juice took about 20 minutes. Like I once did with my grandma, the kids and I played cards while we waited.
Above: Mashing the pulp with a colander was hard work. I recommend a food mill.
Above: Our finished jam cools in jars from my local grocery store. For extra special gifts, I also made a few in classic Weck jars from Germany (see below). Available $3.50 each at Crate and Barrel.
Above: So yummy just the way Grandma and I enjoyed it: on hot buttered toast.
Beach Plum Jam
- 5 lbs of ripe beach plums
- Pectin of your choice
- 1 cup of orange juice
- Sterilized canning jars (follow the directions on the packaging)
Wash beach plums and remove any leaves and stems. In a stock pot, mix the washed fruit with 1 cup of orange juice. Over high heat, bring mixture to a simmer, then lower to medium/low and cook for 20 minutes until the skins split, stirring often. After the plums are cooked, place them in a colander or food mill to separate the skins and pits from the pulp. (Note: I did not have a food mill at my cottage, so used a colander. This proved to be a time consuming process, so in future I will go with a food mill.)
After you have separated the pulp, you can combine it with the sugar and pectin, following the specific recipe on the box of pectin (they all vary slightly).
Place in sterilized jam jars and allow to cool.