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. Frances

    I can never get the set right – usually overdo it. When you do each test do you take the pan off the stove until you have checked the test? Then, if not yet set, put the pan back on the stove. Or do you leave it on the stove while you are doing the test?

  2. I have done the same as Patricia ,not made the jelly yet will do that tomorrow got 2 1/2 pints just found out I don’t have enough jars will have to go and buy some.
    Ps I mixed frozen blackberries with the wild plubs hope it works they were left over from last year

  3. viki ballinger

    Great to have found this recipe – not easy finding plum jelly recipes! Will start making it today and keep you posted. Viki

  4. Seen your recipe and it looks easy so I may give it a go late August. I intend to use a pressure cooker pot and question is how do you know when there is enough water to cover half the fruit?

  5. Lindsay


    Thanks for all the fantastic recipes – I am busy working my way through everything involving apples!

    Buoyed on by the success of the apple and blackberry jelly I made yesterday, today I have tried my hand at this damson jelly recipe, using what I am sure are wild damsons – small and round compared to most damsons, and bitter to taste.

    However, when I tasted the jam whilst testing for the setting point, the jam is very bitter, and leaves a strong bitter aftertaste. Can this be rescued? I used caster sugar instead of granulated.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Lindsay

      Wild damsons are far more tart than ordinary damsons which have been bred for domestic use. That’s why the jelly turned out to tart.

      Yes it can be rescued very easily. Put the jam into a large heavy bottomed saucepan and heat gently. When it is warm add sugar in 100g incremental steps and stir well. Taste, taste again and add incrementally untill you have the right flavour. Make absolutely sure that all sugar has dissolved before adding 100ml water for every 100g of sugar added. Bring slowly to the boil and when it reaches rolling boil point test after five mins for a set. If it hasn’t set test every four mins (taking the saucepan off the heat) until you achieve a wrinkle in the jelly. N.B. Make a note of the extra ingredients for next time and if you have the energy post your results here. It will help other people in the future!

  6. I’ve made damson jelly this afternoon, or rather, hope it becomes jelly. I used a thermometer to check that it had gone over the “jam” threshold marker, but it wouldn’t “crinkle” on the cold plate test. I potted it anyway with fingers crossed. As I had left the cooking pan for an hour before I cleaned it, I found that the jelly left in the bottom of it was good and crinkley. . . . so hope springs eternal. I had some difficulty weighing the sugar as my electronic scales batteries have run out again (only been in a week!). last week I made crab apple and damson jelly, using the damsons left over from decanting last year’s damson gin: it set with no difficulties at all. Is the amount of sugar so critical?

  7. Hello it’s Chris,

    sugar, sugar, sugar!!!! Quite literally. I have just made the wild plum jelly and by mistake tipped in three pounds of caster sugar instead of granulated. Have boiled it for nearly 30 mins now and it still wont set. I have put in two tbspns of lemon juice to try and help it on it’s way but to no avail. Can this wonderful stuff be saved???? It’s the last of my plums and was so looking forward to it.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Zoe

      Yes it can be saved! Sometimes for no apparent reason jelly can take ages to set. Just keep on with the rolling boil testing every five minutes or so.

  8. Just wanted to let you know that we have wild plums here in Texas too! I’ve frozen 50 cups of peaches this summer, made grape and peach wine and jelly and am now starting on the wild plums for jelly. We’ve had a HUGE fruit season, and I’m about worn out! You can see pics of some of the prep work on my blog. I checked your recipe on your blog. Thanks!

  9. I have just discovered 3 sloe bushes, absolutely laden, and apparently of interest to no-one but me…which is perfect:)
    (I thought they must be wild plums or damsons at first as they are truly huge, but they are round not oval, and at the last picking session I found the thorns…or rather they found me!!..also quite sizeable)
    I have used the fruit for gin liquer, and followed this jelly recipe….(thinking they were damsons)…it is absolutely lovely. I have used 10lbs for jelly so far and will no doubt make some more, I hate to see such lovely fruit going to waste!!
    Three large bushes are going to keep me pretty busy..!!Thanks for the recipes and for producing such a useful interesting site.

  10. Patricia

    Sorry, I forgot to say hi and thanks for the recipes. 🙂

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