Spicy Plum Sauce

I went over my friend Nadine’s last week; in addition to her birthday celebration, it was her turn to volunteer at her weekly CSA pick-up, and I had a play-date with her daughter Kami.  When she returned from finishing up the CSA, she was nice enough to bring me lots of leftovers; chard, basil, scallions, anise, plums and peaches.

I made a version of this plum sauce two years ago, using Damson plums from Jenkins-Luekens Orchards in New Paltz, NY.  It was a big favorite among my friends and there were many requests for more, but somehow, last year, I completely missed plum season and it passed me by without so much as a by-your-leave.  This year I was determined to pay better attention and keep up with all of these short-season fruits: cherries, raspberries, peaches and plums, among others.  Since Nadine was kind enough to bestow upon me 5 lb sof free plums I decided to make a batch of plum sauce, and, in passing some sauce back to Nadine, I can return the favor.

This sauce is delicious and quite versatile – as I said, a fan favorite.  It works well in the traditional Chinese restaurant applications, as a dipping sauce for dumplings, pot stickers or egg rolls, but is also wonderful as a glaze for grilled meats, a condiment for burgers or a turkey sandwich, or, tossed with hot noodles or rice and some sliced scallions, can make a meal.

Adapted from Plum Sauce in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, J. Kingry and L. Devine


Spicy Plum Sauce


  • 1 cup of cider vinegar, divided (at least 5% acidity)
  • 5 lbs of plums, to yield 9-10 cups sliced, pitted plums (I used a mix of sweet red and tangy golden plums, plus 3 overripe peaches, peeled)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 cup local honey
  • 1 medium Cippolini or other red onion, chopped (no more than 3/4 cup)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 small jalapeno peppers, finely minced (about 2 tbsp); wear gloves!
  • 2 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 scant tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp ginger root, finely minced, or 1 and 1/2 tsp ground ginger


  1. Add 1/2 cup of cider vinegar to a large bowl.  Rinse, pit and chop plums (I batch these in the food processor).  As you go, measure and keep track of how many cups of chopped plums you have (in case you need to adjust the amount of low-acid ingredients in the recipe).  Add chopped plums to the vinegar and mix, as you chop, in order to prevent browning of the fruit. 
  2. Add remaining 1/2 cup vinegar, sugar, honey, onion, garlic, jalapeno, mustard seed, salt and ginger to a large stockpot (make sure to use your largest pot, as the plum sauce will foam up to double or triple it’s volume) and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, over high heat.  Add plums, stir, and bring to a boil once more, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to low and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick & syrupy, about 2 hours. Make sure to scrape the bottom and corners of the pan as you stir and to periodically skim off any foam.  You may need to lower the heat towards the end of the cooking time in order to prevent sticking and scorching.  As the sauce thickens, it will begin to spit as you stir it; a long-handled spoon and/or oven mitt are very helpful in preventing burns.
  3. In the meantime, prepare canner, jars and lids.
  4. Once sauce is thick enough (to your liking – remember that it will thicken some on cooling), ladle hot sauce into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace, and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Yields about 7 cups.


  1. The original recipe calls for 2 cups of lightly packed brown sugar and 1 cup of granulated sugar.  I substituted honey for the granulated sugar (more local and healthier) and decreased the brown sugar (less sweet).
  2. If you do not like the spice of hot peppers, you can either remove the seeds from the jalapenos (to lessen the degree of heat), or use a less spicy pepper, such as Anaheim or poblano.  Of course, if you love the spice, you can substitute cayenne or habanero peppers in place of the jalapenos; just don’t increase the overall amount of peppers (in order to keep the low-acid vegetables at a safe level).
  3. The sauce can be completely local with the elimination of sugar, mustard seeds and ginger.  You could try to source some wild ginger, although I always have a hard time finding any.  Many varieities of mustard plants grow in our area; you could try Poor Man’s Pepper as a substitute for mustard seeds (although I think the dried seeds are better for this recipe and they are best foraged in the Fall).  I did not omit the sugar entirely because it does add body and texture to the sauce, but you can try making it with only honey; I would use a total of 1 and 1/2 cups honey and stop cooking when the sauce is a little bit thinner than picture above (about like a thin commercial ketchup).


Canned, in a cool and dark spot at room temperature, for up to 1 year.




  1. Hannah

    Excited to try this; it looks super tasty! I’m wondering if you could freeze it? I don’t have access to canning supplies.

  2. Pingback: Not Far From The Tree » Blog Archive » 15 ways to eat (and drink) your fruit!

  3. Pingback: Eating fruit from Toronto’s Backyards: Not Far From the Tree « Wanderings

Leave a Reply to Hannah Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: