Cardamom-Plum Jam from 'Little Jars, Big Flavors'

Photograph: Ellen Silverman

In my Berkeley neighborhood this time of year, plums are falling from trees, staining the sidewalks, and making up a huge part of my fruit intake. With such a massive influx, it's the perfect time to turn the quickly ripening fruit into jam. This cardamom-plum version in Southern Living's Little Jars, Big Flavors is an elegant extension of a basic recipe. Fruit is simmered with sugar until it softens and releases its juice, and then the plum pulp is removed from the syrup while it boils. This step may seem surprising—even erroneous—but it keeps the texture of the plums distinct from the syrup and preserves their bright freshness.

Why I picked this recipe: I have more plums on my hands than I know what to do with; jam was the only way out.

What worked: I loved the floral qualities that the cardamom brought to the plums, and the lime juice added necessary acidity while complementing the spice.

What didn't: As is often the case with jam, my attempt at the recipe didn't yield the full five 1/2-pints advertised. I had four full jars plus a couple extra tablespoons for the fridge.

Suggested tweaks: Adding a (pinky-nail size) smidge of butter to the jam along with the plum pulp will help to eliminate foam without skimming. If you really dig the lime-cardamom pair, consider adding lime zest to the jam right before adding it to the jars.

For a primer on boiling-water canning, click here.

Reprinted with permission from Little Jars, Big Flavors: Small-batch jams, jellies, pickles, and preserves from the South's most trusted kitchen by the Editors of Southern Living Magazine and Virginia Willis. Copyright 2013. Published by Oxmoor House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Recipe Facts

Active: 60 mins
Total: 70 mins
Makes: 5 half-pint jars

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  • 4 pounds black plums, pitted and chopped (10 cups)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom


  1. Bring plums and sugar to a boil in an 8-quart stainless steel or enameled Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until plums soften, stirring often. Pour mixture through a colander into a bowl, using back of a spoon to squeeze out juice to measure 4 1/2 cups. Reserve 2 cups pulp.

  2. Sterilize jars, and prepare lids.

  3. While jars are boiling, pour reserved 4 1/2 cups plum juice into Dutch oven; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Boil, stirring occasionally, 15 to 17 minutes or until syrupy and a candy thermometer registers 220°. Stir in reserved 2 cups plum pulp and any accumulated juices. Stir in lime juice and cardamom. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or until very thick. Remove from heat; let foam settle (about 1 minute). Skim off and discard any foam.

  4. Fill, seal, and process jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace and processing 5 minutes.

  5. Remove jars from water, and let stand, undisturbed, at room temperature 24 hours. To check seals, remove the bands, and press down on the center of each lid. If the lid doesn’t move, the jar is sealed. If the lid depresses and pops up again, the jar is not sealed. Store properly sealed jars in a cool, dark place up to 1 year. Refrigerate after opening.