The Cottage Smallholder

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Wild Plum or Damson Jelly recipe

wild red plums growing on plum tree

Wild red plums ripening

My Wild Plum Jelly recipe is at the bottom of this post. Click here for Wild Plum Jam.

It’s nearly midnight and the kitchen is filled with the smell of simmering wild plums. Delicious. I went out hunting for them late this afternoon and picked about eight pounds from the hedgerows at the end of the village. As there are still loads ripening with the promise of more, I decided to use all the plums for jelly. The wine and chutney can wait till later. I always feel a bit of a devil when I find food for free.

At this time of year I have a few carrier bags in the car just in case I spot some bounty, although it’s much easier to find hedgerow fruit on foot. It’s probably my imagination but these wild plums taste much better than the ones that I’ve bought from the supermarket in the past. Perhaps it’s just that they’re so fresh.

These wild plums are both sharp and sweet, they could be a cross between plums and damsons.As they’re high in pectin it’s easy to make a tangy jelly to serve with roast meat or add to your gravy for that extra zing. Any hedgerow fruit can be used for jelly, just make sure that you have a decent percentage of fruit that’s high in pectin.

In the past I have included blackberries, damsons, crab apples and elderberries. I usually put aside the bullaces and sloes for making fruit gin. Our wine making equipment comes in handy for jelly making.

When the simmering fruit has softened it is poured through muslin (often referred to as a jelly bag). The tall buckets that we use to store the must for our wine are now going to be pressed into service to catch the drips from the jelly bags.

Rather than hang the bags (conventional method) I find it easier to line large plastic sieves with the muslin. These clip neatly onto the tops of the buckets. The sieve is covered with a clean tea towel to protect against flies.By morning, the dripping will have stopped.

The straining operation takes place in the bath so as to avoid spills in the kitchen carpet and to prevent intrusions by curious dogs. If I remember to stock up on sugar, we’ll be making the jelly tomorrow evening.


Wild Plum or Damson Jelly Recipe,

Gather wild plums/damsons from the hedgerows, ideally small bittersweet ones. To make this recipe worthwhile, I pick at least 4 lbs. Wash and place the plums/damsons in a deep heavy bottomed saucepan. Add water to cover half of the fruit. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer very gently until all the fruit is soft and squishy. This can take anything from 15 minutes to over an hour, depending on how ripe the fruit is. Place the fruit in a jelly bag and drain overnight.

Measure the juice the next day. Pour it into a deep heavy bottomed saucepan and add 450g/1 pound of white granulated sugar for each 570ml/1 UK pint of juice. Heat the juice and sugar gently so as to make sure that that all the sugar has dissolved before bringing the liquid slowly to the boil. Continue to boil rapidly for about 5-10 minutes before testing for a set. Tossing in a nugget of butter will reduce the frothing that can occur.

Getting the right set can be tricky. I have tried using a jam thermometer but find it easier to use the following method. Put a plate in the fridge so that the warm jelly can be drizzled onto a cold plate. Return the plate to the fridge to cool. It has set when you run your finger through it and leave a crinkly track mark.

If after two minutes the cooled jelly is too liquid, continue to boil the jelly, testing it every few minutes until you have the right set. The jelly is far more delicious if it is slightly runny.

When the jelly is ready, pour into warm sterilised jars and immediately cover with lids. Label and store in a cool, dark place.

This jelly is excellent with meat and we often use it as a base for a sauce, dissolving it in the pan with a little wine or water and handful of chopped herbs.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Pam

    I do hope that it worked out for you.

    Hi Patricia

    Your method sounds intriguing can’t wait to try it myself.

  2. Patricia

    I’ve just used this recipe to make a batch of plum jelly from the wild plums near my house and the results are delicious! Rather that let the juice drain, though, I sieved the boiled fruit through a fine-mesh sieve, pushing with a spoon. The resulting juice was rather pulpy and the jelly set in 10 minutes, and it’s not too cloudy, rather a beautiful coral colour. I used yellow, red and damson-like plums, with a couple of bullaces thrown in for good measure.

  3. i’m trying this recipe now, well…with a bit of variation to fit the amount of juice i got out of the plums we “found” while looking for blackberries…i have my fingers crossed.

  4. Hi all
    l found this website browsing to find info on a tree in my garden that l know nothing about. lt is fruiting now (late September) and the fruits look like an apricot sort of colour Plums. They are roundish and sweet. The tree is laden and l want to use them but l’m not sure what they are. Can anybody help please ?

    • Evesham plums. Or Egg plums. Fantastic jam makers or if you are like me and the fruit is free make Jam Jelly
      Ignore the purists and weight down the pillowcase after a night hung up draining into a large receptical. You will get another pint of juice It won’t be cloudy as many suggest. Who can tell on your morning English muffin? Not I.

    • They sound like mirabelles to me!

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Carolanne

    You can reboil the jelly, reducing the liquid will make it set better! If the jelly sets too hard, you can turn it around – there is a post on it here

  6. carolanne connolly

    Hello we have made damson jelly but it is very runny! help.carolanne

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Lynne

    You take stunning photographs of food, my mouth is watering!

    The little wild plums are packed with flavour – looking forward to inding them this sutumn in the UK!

    Thanks for leaving a comment.

  8. These look just like the ones that my mother picked when I was young. She made the most wonderful wild plum jelly. I have just located such a plum at the farmers market called “sugar plums”. I just finished the jelly this morning and was searching for sauces made with the jelly when I happened upon your post. Your blog is very interesting.

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Isobel,

    Thanks for leaving a comment. I usually taste the sugar and juice just before I bring it to a rolling boil and adjust add a little lemon juice if it needs to be more tart.

  10. Hello there!

    tried this recipe last night and have just polished off a steak with a lovely beer and damson jelly sauce which was delicous! The jelly worked really well but might try a little less sugar next time to make it a bit tarter. Thanks for posting the recipe!

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