Beach Plum Jelly – Reduced Sugar Recipe

It’s been a banner year for wild beach plums. We returned to Maidstone Beach up in Springs where the pickin’ was easy, more so than ever. In this case foraging seems too austere a word to call harvesting nature’s wild bounty. The bushes were laden with plump plums. Clear sky, gentle breeze, boats on the bay, perfect. We gathered twice the amount of beach plums in half the time we usually spend thrashing about in the thickets.

This version is a big departure from our traditional beach plum jelly recipe which takes a stunning seven cups of sugar for four cups of juice.  (For kicks invite a friend to witness the making that one; if seven cups of sugar sounds like a lot, just wait ’til you see if for real.)

This time the sugar-to-juice ratio is virtually reversed.  This jelly recipe calls for six cups of juice sweetened with only four cups of sugar. It’s all made possible thanks to the miracle of pectin for reduced sugar or sugar free recipes.  

This jelly has a lot more fruit flavor than the earlier recipe.  The tartness is bumped up. The texture is thicker and jammier though only strained juice is used.

If the lack of bright, shiny color and wiggly, jiggly texture is a hallmark of authenticity this Beach Plum Jelly recipe is extremely authentic indeed.

The big red crock pot once again made easy work of slowly stewing the fruit to release the juices. We ran it on low heat overnight, then put the juicy mush through a jelly bag.  The same results are almost as easily gotten when cooking on low heat on the stove.  You do have to keep more of an eye on it.

Note: jelly and jam recipes often list the addition of a bit of butter during cooking as an option. It’s not optional here — without butter the foam that arises is thick and gooey and indestructible.

TIP: make a perfect bucket for beach plum picking with a two quart plastic milk bottle.  Cut the top of the bottle starting above where handle joins and scooping down a little to make a big opening.   The handle makes it very easy to work with. Unlike bags and woven baskets the rigid plastic will not snag on twigs and branches. A two quart containers measures the harvest yield right in the field.

Reduced sugar recipe

2 gallons fresh beach plums to make 6 c. beach plum juice
4 c. sugar
1 T. butter
1 packet Sure Jell Pectin for Less Sugar or No Sugar Recipes. 

1. To make beach plum juice wash and pick over the beach plums to remove twigs and leaves. Place in a large crock pot and cook for six to eight hours until the fruit is well stewed. Use a potato masher to squash the fruit.  The pits will easily separate from the flesh of the fruit.  Mash well.

Or you can cook the fruit in a large heavy pot.  Add 1/2 cup of water to the raw fruit and cook over medium low heat for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.  It might take longer to fully cook all the fruit through.  Stir to cook evenly and when the fruit starts to break open mash with a potato masher.  The fruit is ready when it’s completely cooked and the pits separate from the flesh and skins easily.

2. Use a jelly bag to strain the juice from the fruit pulp and pits.  A jelly bag is a smart investement (about $7.50 on Amazon) but if you haven’t got one you can strain the juice with a few layers of cheese cloth fitted into a strainer.

Before discarding the pits and pulp, twist the bag or cheese cloth to wring out as much juice as possible.

3. Two gallons should yield 6 cups of beach plum juice. You can add up to 1 cup of apple juice to bring it up to 6 cups total. If you have less than five cups of juice reduce the sugar proportionately.

4. Measure 4 cups of sugar into a separate bowl.  Take out 1/4 c. of sugar and place it in a small bowl.  Add the packet of Sure Jell No Sugar or Reduced Sugar powdered pectin.  Mix well.

5.  Put the juice in a large, heavy pot. Stir in the pectin/sugar mixture. Stir and cook over medium high heat until the juice comes to a full boil. It should should continuen to boil even while you stir it.

6. Add the remaining sugar to the boiling juice.  Stir the sugar in well.  Continue to stir as you bring the jam back up to an exuberant boil. Cook on high boil for 2-3 minutes.

7. Remove from heat and can in sterilized 1/2 pint jars and sterilized lids. Process in a boiling water bath for five minutes.

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Written by on September 8, 2013 under ALL RECIPES, East Hampton, Foraging, Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Relish, Kitchen Gadgets.

  • Karen Raczewski Monger

    I get a little bit of criticism for using pectin when I make jam and jelly from wild fruits and flowers, but hey, I just spent 4 hours in the boiling sun picking plums/cherries/grapes/ropehips and you bet I want it to set! I almost always try to get the recipes to work with low sugar pectin, because we like to taste the fruit. Even though beach plums are small, we individually pit each one and use them whole, skin on, for the jam. It is so thick and chunky, and I love the tartness.

    • Maryanne

      Do you have your Beach Plum Jam recipe to share, or can I use the jelly recipe and use the solid, other than the pits, if course. Thanks if you see this.

      • Karen Raczewski Monger

        Buy the low sugar Sure Jell pectin and follow the enclosed recipe insert for plum jam. That’s what we do and it works out fine. This year we picked the plums a week or two too early and they were very tart, so I used the full sugar pectin and recipe and it is fine too.

        • Sean

          sounds good guys!

          • Judy

            How much water did you put in the slow cooker to cook on low for 6-8 hours?

          • Sean

            No water, just the washed fruit. All the cooking will release the juice.

        • Maryanne

          Thanks for sharing my low sugar beach plum jam question!,I froze the pulp/juice mixture as we were all sick-not in Jam making mood :-) I am wondering about measuring the liquid as it is so much thicker with the pulp. Do you add Apple juice or water our anything to thin it out? Thanks so much-I can’t wait to make it-it was my Mom’s favorite!

          • Sean

            Hmmm… i’m not quite following the question.

  • Sean

    You deserve a medal for individually pitting the beach plums. Now that’s a task. Re packaged pectin, it seems to me the biggest downside is the rare occasion when it does fail. If the ratios or acid level are off the result is unmistakably liquid. Still not a total loss since it now can be categorized syrup. (You can empty out the jars and try again but I’m from the cut your losses school.) Low-sugar and no-added pectin batches have more fruit than sugar so it’s a much thicker mixture from the start. Not a hard and fast rule, just my experience in general.

  • Susan

    I used regular pectin with this recipe and it didn’t thicken. Does anyone have a fix?

    • Sean

      That’s a tough one. You could try cooking it again adding as much sugar as required for the regular pectin recipe. Or use as a syrup or sauce. Good luck

  • mafuzzy

    I used this recipe and made 3 batches and they turned out great! In one batch I added a couple of cap fulls of Mexican vanilla. That one was my granddaughter’s favorite. This is the only low sugar recipe for wild plums that I could find online. Thank you for sharing!

    • Sean

      Hey glad it worked out. Three batches should last you a while, unless like me you give lots away. Good tip about the vanilla.

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