100% Local: Plums in Wine & Honey

As the nippy Fall air makes its way into New York, I heave a sigh of relief as I sense the urgency of the preserving season winding down. While I truly enjoy putting by the best of each season’s produce, even the most dedicated preserver can get a bit burnt out by the onslaught of summer produce, and I am feeling just a wee bit crispy at the edges. My back is sore, my fingernails are permanently stained red, and I need to hit the stores for more raw sugar, brown sugar, molasses, cider vinegar, white vinegar, bourbon, tequila and lemons. Whew!

The last week in particular has seen my canner in almost constant bubble: peach butter, pirate peaches, peach jam with tequila & chile, tomato chutney, fire roasted tomatoes and the endless pickled eggplant; I labeled and stored about 4 dozen jars yesterday. The easiest by far of the recent spate of preserving, however, has been this one: plums in wine & honey.

This simple little preserve is a riff on Georgeanne Brennan’s classic drunken cherries: just plums, local red wine and honey, simple ingredients that blend & mellow on the shelf to yield a preserve that is greater than the sum of its parts. The softest, ripest plums are puréed to add some body to the wine-honey syrup, the remainder are pitted, sliced and raw-packed into hot jars. Cover them with boiling syrup, process for 10 minutes, et voila! Five pounds of plums disappear, lickety-split, into jars and six pints of goodness sit on your shelves, awaiting the pies, tarts and winner-winnner-chicken-dinners of a long, cold New York winter. Simple deliciousness that even the burnt-out preserver will love!

Adapted from Drunken Cherries, originally Brandied Cherries in The Glass Pantry by Georgeanne Brennan

Plums in Wine & Honey


  • 5 lbs plums, divided
  • 1 bottle fruity red wine (I used a local claret from Sand Castle Winery)
  • 1 cup local honey
  • 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar OR red wine vinegar or lemon juice, optional
  • pinch sea salt


  1. Prepare canners, jars & lids.
  2. Pick out about 1 and 1/4 lbs of the ripest, softest plums: set aside. Rinse the remaining plums, stem, pit and slice into 1/4-inch slices. Pour the wine into a large bowl and store the sliced plums there until you are ready to can (to prevent browning).
  3. Rinse, pit and coarsely chop the original 1 and 1/4 lbs plums. Add to a food processor with about 1/4 cup of the wine and process until puréed. Transfer purée to a medium (4-quart) stockpot; add honey. Strain the sliced plums from the wine and add wine to the stockpot. Bring to a boil, stirring until honey dissolves, reduce heat and boil gently until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Taste syrup: if it needs a bit of oomph, add the optional vinegar or lemon juice now.
  4. Fill hot jars with plum slices, tamping the jar as you go but not packing too tightly, to about 3/4-inch headspace. Once plum-wine-honey syrup is slightly thickened, ladle hot syrup over plums to a generous 1/2-inch headspace. Carefully bubble jars, adjust headspace, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Alllow to rest in the hot canner water for 10 minutes after the processing time (to prevent siphoning).

Yields about 6 pints.


  1. You can use this preserve to make a pie, similar to Drunken Cherry Pie, although the texture will be somewhat more runny due to the lack of sugar as thickener.
  2. Pour over chicken breasts, with perhaps a touch extra vinegar and/or some fresh herbs, for a quick & easy baked chicken dish.
  3. I know a certain Hip Girl who enjoyed hers over ice cream!


Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year. Allow to age on the shelf for at least 1 month before using.


Late summer into early Fall.


  1. I love this recipe!! Now to find some plums. But out of curiosity, what size bottle of wine did you have? I have two or maybe three bottles of a blackberry Cabernet. My favorite vineyard produces lovely fruit infused wines. So I may have to use that one.

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  3. I am totally with you on being so very glad that the preserving season in NY is winding down (especially with selling my jams & jellies at the market this year, it’s been quite a busy summer)! These plums look beautiful and delicious – a perfect addition to any larder indeed.

  4. Mine are down in the canner now. The only local wine I had on hand was an ice wine so I went with one of my favorite Spanish ones. The plums are a mix of what I could find locally. I can’t wait for this to age to try it. I plan to give a pint of the plums to a friend this weekend as a hostess gift thought!

  5. coriannder

    I made these last week with some plums given to me from a friend’s tree. I used a red wine from the same town as the plums, and honey from my own town. I put in some fresh lemon juice and lemon zest for a little zing. They turned out amazingly! I can’t get enough of them… On yogurt, ice cream, even homemade granola for breakfast. Thanks so much for posting!

    • Hi Hilary,

      These labels are a simple text version that I make in MS Word. It helps to download the template from Avery.com and use their labels (these are the recycled brown kraft version); then it is just a matter of manipulating text in Word so that it fits within the template circle.

      There is a more complex version, for which I give complete instructions, here: https://localkitchenblog.com/2010/10/14/labels-a-tutorial/ It may help to spark some ideas.

      Good luck!

  6. Kaela,
    I totally agree with you. This year’s preserving has me maxed out, and my normally compliant hubby has pretty well hit his limit, too. As I described in a post on our blog fruit.root.leaf. (http://fruitrootleaf.blogspot.ca/2012/10/when-artists-cook-harvest-abundance-and.html), we went gangbusters this year on tomatoes, peppers, peaches, pickles, and jam. We’re up in Quebec City, but the season isn’t quite over – we were still harvesting grapes over the weekend, for some grape jam (a first, based on your recipe!).

    Bon appetit!

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  8. Dorian Greenbaum

    Hi, I enjoy reading your blog, and especially your canning expertise. I made the plums in wine and honey a couple of days ago. I followed your directions exactly, and sterilized the jars and lids and water-bathed for 10 minutes, letting them stay an additional 10 minutes in the bath after boiling. All sealed. My concern is that after I packed the sliced plums into the jars, when I added the honey-wine syrup, also prepared exactly as directed, I wasn’t able to add that much extra to the jars; I ended up with maybe 3/4 of an inch to an inch on the bottom of the half pints and about 2 inches in the 10-oz. jar I was using. I had more than a cup of extra syrup, which I decided to can and water bath just for fun (I just did one half-pint). My question is, is there enough sugar (honey) in the syrup I did add to keep the plums safe? And, was it OK to can the leftover syrup? Many thanks!
    PS — I also made 4 pints of your red salsa yesterday, and all went well.

    • Hi Dorian,

      While granulated sugar does act as a preservative (by taking up water in the jam that bacteria can use to propagate) it’s unclear whether honey offers the same preservative qualities. Regardless, your plums are perfectly safe, as pH is what matters most in water-bath canning, and pH is unaffected by either sugar or honey; plums can be safely canned in water. As long as most of the plums are surrounded by liquid, your jars are fine. And canning the leftover syrup is perfectly safe as well: I’ve done the same myself when I have extra.

      Do note that, because of the lack of refined sugar, these preserves have a somewhat shorter shelf-life than preserves that use sugar. Not that they become unsafe if still sealed, but that color and flavor will start to fade more quickly than a similar preserve made with refined sugar.

      Hope that helps,

      • Dorian Greenbaum

        Hi Kaela, Thanks so much for your prompt response. I feel much better now. 🙂 And look forward to trying the plums in a month!

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