British Columbia

Jamming out: a beginners guide to homemade plum jam

Stephanie Black joined North by Northwest to teach Jason D'Souza how to make jam.

"Calm down, it's just jam," says expert, who provides a guide for making a simple and delicious plum jam.

CBC's Jason D'Souza was joined by jam expert Stephanie Black who taught him how to 'jam out'. (Stephanie Black)

The summer is winding down and those fresh, B.C. grown fruits will soon be out of season.

But there are ways to hang on to those summer flavours year round, according to Vancouver jam aficionado Stephanie Black.

Black joined Jason D'Souza on CBC's North by Northwest to offer a beginners guide to the jam-making craft. 

"People get really nervous about making jam," said Black, who has a message for those that happen to fall into that category: "Calm down, it's just jam."

Here's her guide for a simple — and delicious — plum jam.

Jam expert Stephanie Black likes to keep her jam simple, using only fruit and sugar (and maybe a pinch of cinnamon). (Stephanie Black)

1. Pick really good plums

"You want to pick really good fruit — really ripe, and not bruised," she said. "You need to have the best fruit so weird stuff doesn't happen with your jam."

2. Gather your equipment

Black says you won't need too much for a good homemade batch of jam. But you will need the following:

  • Three pounds of plums
  • Sugar
  • A large pot
  • A mixing spoon
  • A ladle
  • Clean jars with sterilized lids
  • A scale
  • Lemon juice and zest

"I hardly ever use a recipe for jam, because I don't want to put additives in it," she said. "I mostly just use fruit and sugar."

3. Leave the peel on

Once you have your material gathered, begin by finely chopping up the plums and removing the pits in the process. But don't be scared to leave the peels on, Black said.

"For plum jam, my favourite thing is to leave the peel on. A lot of people say you should peel them,  but that's a waste of time if you ask me. And when it cooks [with the peel], the peels come off in the jam — and it really adds flavour."

4. Use the same amounts of fruit and sugar

After chopping up your plum, you'll want to weigh out how much you'll be using for your batch. Be sure to keep your batches relatively small in this case, three pounds of plums) so the fruit will jell/thicken.

Use your scale to weigh out equal amounts of sugar and fruit for the batch.

Add the lemon zest and juice. Adding an acid like lemon juice helps to stop and slow down the growth of dangerous bacteria. 

5. Cook on medium heat

Place the plums in your pot on medium heat and mix in the sugar. Feel free to add tasty spices like cinnamon. Stir with a wooden spoon.

Continue to stir as it boils, checking for the consistency of the batch.

"A way to test if it's getting ready is taking the wooden spoon you've been using to stir and pull it out," said Black.

Check how fast it drips of the spoon —  the less runny, the better.

6. Place a small sample in the fridge

Using your stir spoon, dabble a small amount on a plate and place it in the fridge until it cools. Taste it afterwards — if it meets your standards, you've got yourself a batch of your own plum jam.

7. Can away

Now that you've made your jam, it's time to can. You will start by ladling the jam into your jars, leaving about half an inch of space from the top. Seal the lids on tightly.

After, give the jars a heat bath by placing them in a large pot of water, with the jars covered by about two inches of water. Boil them for about five minutes (a set of jar tongs will come in handy for this).

Check out this beginner's guide to canning to determine which method you think works best for you. Also, be sure to check out Health Canada's guide to canning safely at home. Improper canning can lead to botulism, a serious form of food poisoning, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. 

With files from CBC's North by Northwest


  • An earlier version of this article omitted lemon juice and zest from the recipe. When preparing jams, adding acid helps to slow down and stop the growth of dangerous bacteria.
    Aug 29, 2016 2:37 PM PT