Bottling plums and stone fruit is the perfect way to preserve the summer harvest to enjoy all year round. If you are new to bottling fruit, here is an easy to follow, step by step tutorial on exactly how to do it!
2 hours before you need the jars, run them through the dishwasher on the hottest wash (ours is called hygiene but it may be called sterilise on your machine) Keep the door shut until you are ready for the jars as it will keep them warm until you are ready to use them. If you don’t have a dishwasher, wash the jars thoroughly in hot soapy water and place them in the oven at 150°C for at least 15 minutes or until you need them.To sterilise the lids and seals, place them in a pot, cover them with water and bring to them to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and keep them in the water until ready to use.
Step 2: Make the sugar syrup
Add the sugar and water to a large pot and bring to the boil – boil for a couple of minutes until the sugar has dissolved and keep simmering until you are ready to use it. The liquid needs to be hot when it goes into the jars. This is optional, but I also added 2 cinnamon sticks to the sugar syrup for extra flavour.
Step 3: Wash & prepare the fruit
While the sugar syrup is cooking, prepare the fruit. Wash the plums by filling up a large bowl or your clean sink with water, and give the fruit a light wipe down. This is also a great chance to pull out any pieces of fruit that are bruised or very ripe – these are not good to use for bottling, save them and stew them to put in the freezer.Once the fruit has been washed, cut in half and remove the stone. You can leave them whole but I find they pack into jars much better in halves. For how to prepare other types of stone fruit, see the post for more details.
Step 4: Pack the fruit and syrup into jars
Line a big flat bottomed roasting dish with newspaper (so that any spills don’t burn), take a jar out of the dishwasher or oven and place it in the roasting dish. Pack as much fruit as you can into the jar, leaving a couple of centimeters at the top of the jar. I usually fit about 14 plums (28 halves) into a 1 litre Agee jar or 7 plums into a 500ml jar. Once you have as much fruit in the jar as you can fit, use a ladle to fill the jar up with the hot sugar syrup. Fill it almost to the top (leaving about 1.5cm) and then run a clean butter knife or small rubber spatula (I usually run this through the dishwasher with the jars) around the inside of the jar to make sure there are no air bubbles in the jar. Use a clean damp cloth to wipe around the rim of the jar.Use tongs to remove a seal and a lid out of the hot water and carefully place the seal on the jar and tighten the ring around it until you just meet resistance.Repeat until you have run out of fruit.
Step 5: Heat processing the jars
Heat the oven to 140°C, place the full jars in the roasting dishes in the oven and process for 50-60 minutes. Once they have processed, carefully remove the jars from the oven and place them on a tea towel on the bench. Leave them overnight and check in the morning to see that the jars have sealed.
Step 6: Check the seals
To check the seals, remove the rings from the jars and gently try to prise the lid off using your finger. If they have sealed, the seals will be concave and you won't be able to move the lid. Give the jar a clean with a damp cloth and store in a cool dark place. Properly sealed jars will keep for at least a year and I have kept fruit for 2 years with no problems.If the jars haven’t sealed they cannot be stored at room temperature but they are still safe to eat. Just place the jar in the fridge and eat within a week. Depending on the type of jar you have used (Ball Mason Jars freeze well but I haven’t tried with Agee Jars) you can pop the whole jar in the freezer, or you could transfer the contents of the jar to a freezer proof container and store them in there.
How much sugar you use depends on how sweet you want the sugar syrup (see post for more details) The ratio I used is a medium-heavy syrup.