Sandhill Plum Jelly

Remember this jelly making disaster? That was four years ago. Though I’ve longed to make jelly from wild plums ever since then, I’ve not had the nerve to do so.

This summer though, nature intervened in my feet-of-clay stance:  the plum trees we planted in the yard about 5 years ago produced a bounty of plums for the first time, and I knew I couldn’t just let all those purple little jewels drop to the ground and rot.

So I did some research online and found this wonderful blog post from Alicia over at Everyday Home Cook , describing how to make wild plum jelly, and I learned I made two mistakes last time – the plums weren’t ripe, and I cooked them like you would for fat juicy cultivated plums.  Unlike a standard recipe for plum jelly where you boil up said amount of plums expecting to get said amount of juice, wild plums have very little juice. So what you have to do is pick and boil up a lot of plums, straining off the juice from each potfull until you have the required amount of juice called for in a jelly making recipe.

Behold the Sandhill Plum.


Some of them are purple, some red,and some are yellow.  They are much smaller than the plums you’ll find in your grocery store.


They are native to North America and were cultivated by Native Americans before the arrival of Europeans. Years ago we planted a row of them in our cedar windbreak as cover and a food source for wildlife. This year when I saw the limbs hanging down with their burden of fruit I set forth with a bucket in hand and hope in my heart that this time I would be able to make the longed for wild plum jelly.

Making sure the plums are ripe is important. If you grab hold of a little plum and it falls into your hand, it’s yours to keep. If it stubbornly holds on to the tree let it be until another day. Every few days I ventured forth to pick plums and then stored them in the fridge until I had enough to fill my biggest pot. Then I washed the plums, threw away any stems, and put them into the pot with about an inch of water. I slapped the lid on and brought them to a boil on high heat. I stirred occasionally and reduced heat as needed to prevent them from boiling over.  Finally the skins split and they were boiling in their own juice.


This took about a half hour. Then I removed the pot from the heat and strained the plums in cheesecloth. I poured the resulting juice into a lidded container and marveled at my success so far. I just had to share my joy with someone. Harland was not home though so I showed my bounty to Kitty:


She didn’t share my joy.


Kitty:   “I can’t believe you woke me up for this.”

Nevermind. I was riding high on a cloud by now. I had decided to make jelly from a Sure-Jell recipe which calls for 5 1/2 cups juice. The recipe can be found on the paper insert inside the box.


So I kept picking plums and boiling them up every few days until I had enough juice to make jelly.

On jelly making day, I carefully followed the recipe instructions, and….and….



I just LOVE the color:


So pretty.  The flavor is very plummy and very sweet. Perfect. These will make nice Christmas gifts.

So there you have it. Don’t despair when your best efforts fail. When you DO succeed it will be all the sweeter.

Ta ta!



Cattle, corn, wheat, beans, mud, snow, ice, and drought. Plenty of fresh air and quiet. Our life is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous, but never boring.

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12 Responses

  1. Amy C. from NC says:

    I’m so glad you are back! Good to see you, and kitty, looking so well!

  2. Lorraine says:

    The color of that jelly is so pretty. I would have to leave it out on the table for a couple of days to admire it. I made chili sauce and spaghetti sauce and canned it this year. It had been over a decade since I had done anything like that. I just left them out and looked at the beautiful colors.
    The red of that plum jelly is so just right for Christmas time! Good for you. Job well done.
    Miss Kitty doesn’t look to interested. Maybe she needs a little apron and wooden spoon to “help”.

  3. Jeanne says:

    I read your story of the the wild plum jelly making – both versions, actually, last night, but it was so late, I needed to go to bed. Now I’m back! I really sympathized with you on that first failure, and rejoiced at the beautiful results from this year! I’ve never even seen wild plums! I used to make a lot of jams and jellies, but now we don’t eat much of them anymore. 🙁

    I’m looking forward to future stories of the escapades of you, Harland and Kitty!

  4. Kathy S says:

    Although I have watched (and helped) my grandmother make jelly, I have never made it myself. Yours looks wonderful! I bet it tastes good too.

    Glad you are feeling better and welcome back!

  5. J Raska says:

    I am so envious. My mom was born in Kansas but moved to California where I was raised. Every few years we would travel back to the midwest to see family in Kansas (and Missouri). My most favorite jelly of all is sand hill plum. Most of her family has since passed away and we don’t get to Kansas anymore but I really miss that jelly and all the memories of making it when we would visit during the summer and fall.

  6. Alicia says:

    Suzanne, the jelly looks wonderful! So clear and pretty. Thanks for linking to my post, and I am happy you found it helpful 🙂

  7. Suzanne, that jelly looks delectable, the color shines like rubies. I’m happy for you that you were able to get such a delightful harvest.

    Kitty’s expression cracks me up every time !~!

  8. Glenda says:

    I had the privilege of tasting Suzanne’s plum jelly as I visited this last weekend. It is so delicious! It starts out sweet on your tongue then you get a taste of tart with a zing and then the salivation that completes the experience. You’d think I was describing a fine wine, wouldn’t you? It is very good! Kudos Suzanne!

  9. Henrietta Singleterry says:

    my daughter found some sandhill plum bushes down the road from us but here in n.m. our plums don’t get as big as yours… how long can we store the juice and do you freeze it or just keep it refrigerated. out at my parents ranch the plums aren’t quite rip yet. so i need to save the little bit from down the road till we go to pick in milnesand.

  10. Cheryl Ross says:

    I have to chuckle at many of the recipes on other websites that say “wash and pit” the plums before cooking! Its OBVIOUS

  11. Cheryl Ross says:

    I have to chuckle at many of the other websites that state “wash and pit” the plum before cooking. Its definitely OBVIOUS these people have never handled a sand hill plum before!! I’d love to see them attempt to pit those plums!

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