The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Still laid up but I’ve been bottling foraged fruit

Photo: Bottled cherry plums

Photo: Bottled cherry plums

I’m getting to the end of my third week being in bed. Finally last week my doctor discovered that I have a problem with my kidneys. I was beginning to wonder whether I’d just fade away like one of Dicken’s heroines.

So now we are waiting for more test results. Meanwhile I languish in the big spare room bed feeling lousy. I get up for a couple of hours in the afternoon. I’ve been out on two mini foraging trips to harvest wild plums and have bottled (canned) six kilos to eat in the winter months. I’ve also been harvesting the chubby wild blackberries that grow in our garden for wine and bottling with sliced apples. Gentle satisfying exercise.

We usually make jam, jelly and chutney with the wild cherry plums but this year I wanted to try bottling this fruit. When I was a child my mum bottled a lot of fruit (freezers were rare in those days) and I loved looking at the jars lined up on the larder shelves. Comfortable, squat, their fruit suspended in the coloured syrup.

There’s lots of good advice about bottling on the internet. I found the site very useful. In the end I rang my mum and she looked up her old method in her ancient Ideal Gas cookery book. Here are the instructions for bottling plums.

  • Make a syrup of anything between 4ozs (113g) to a pound (454g) of white sugar to one pint (568ml) of water. My mum tipped to use the minimum sugar as too much can make the syrup taste sickly.
  • Sterilise jars, rings and caps. Always use new rubber seals.
  • Wash fruit and discard any bad or bruised  fruit.
  • Set the oven to Gas Mark ½ (120°C, 250°F).
  • Pack the jars very tightly with the plumbs pushing them firmly down.
  • Put several sheets of newspaper into a deep baking tray (to absorb any liquid that bubbles over)
  • Place the jars two inches apart on the baking tray. Fill to the makers mark (about an inch below the rim) with boiling syrup. Lids on very loosely (not tightened or clipped shut).
  • Bake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes. (Times change depending on the fruit used).
  • Remove the baking tray and seal the topsof the jars firmly using a thick oven cloth.
  • Leave for 24 hours before testing the seals.

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  1. Mmmm – looking forward to that, thanks. Hubby is fed-up with 5 months of plums so I have to ration them out slowly, am concerned about storage once liquid is removed (hence bottling idea) have a 1.75l jar full but this is employing precious gin that could be bottled. I’m giving a selection of jars bottles to family for Xmas ‘cos there are only 2 of us and lots of preserves! Now off to sculpt a gift of marzipan fruits and animals!

  2. Tess T. ( but I am not at all cross!)

    Just to say to Lindsay, that I always use my gin soaked fruit as a dessert with Ice Cream…it’s delicious (hic!)

  3. Hi, relative newcomer both to your fab site and to preserving. Have had success with this yrs bumper harvest of plums blackberries both with jams and alcohols but am greedy and looking for 2nd uses…I have started 2nd-run blackberry sherry from my ginned berries and am considering broaching Slider if I dare. Am loathed to throw out the fruit from my plum/damson gin, would it be safe to subsequently syrup it? does it need to be cooked-in or is the alcohol-steeping sufficient to just add ready-made syrup? Am I just being over-frugal?
    Incidentally, am hoping to make sloejack for christmas. Have you ever tried it?

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Robert

    It sounds as if they are going bad to me. I thnk that you needed to hot water bath process them after filling them.

    I bottled yellow and red plums and they still are yellow and red.

  5. Robert Reeves

    Great information. However I have been bottling yellow plums by cooking them first (sugar added) and then bottling and sealing in sterilized jars when they are boiling. In storage after a while they begin to turn brown. Any suggestions please?

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Angela

    I say above leave lids on very losely or unclipped. Fill to about an inch below the rim.

    Sometimes my jars seem to bubble over so a small ovenproof jug with syrup that goes in the oven with the jars can be useful.

    I think that you only seal the jars for the water bath method.

    I reckon that your fruit will be safe to eat but would never advise tightening lids before putting them in a slow oven.

  7. Angela Clarke

    I’ve just had my first go at bottling plums using the oven and Le parfait jars. Am I supposed to seal the clips before they go in the oven or after? – I’ve found opinion varies! Also, I seemed to lose quite a lot of the syrup during processing despite sealing the jars first – is this normal and is the product still safe to eat? Thanks

  8. David Smith

    Good morning all,

    (Also posted on Plum Chutney blog)

    I’m after some advice. As well as this excellent chutney recipe we make plums in red wine. The recipe is from Delia, Book 3 of her 3 book set. We have been freezing this to presrve it, but we wondered if, since it contains sugar and wine, whether this could be bottled in Kilner jars, for example, and not frozen. Anyone any thoughts? Incidentally, we can recommend the recipe, fresh or frozen.

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Thanks Jackie

    That’s a relief.

  10. If the seal’s good, you can use them, it won’t harm them at all 🙂

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