Last summer a friend gave me frozen plums. Enormous, icy bricks of purple, purple plums. They’d been tucked away in her freezer for quite a while, and she needed to clear them out in anticipation of moving. So this fall, when I haven’t had time to preserve a single thing, I’ve been opening the freezer and thinking, whoa, that’s a lot of plums. Those, in addition to the plums I put away in June when my neighbor’s tree fell down.
Tumbling toward the holidays, I wanted to make something instead of cranberry relish with turkey. My mom makes the best cranberry relish. (I know, everyone’s mom probably does that. But my mom’s is really the best.) I’m still not eating sugar, though — at least not much — so I decided to try for something rich and tart and sweetened with honey. Plums and spices seemed just right, and plums do the fruit butter thing so well. Even though they’d been in the freezer longer than I want to say, the texture of this butter was just perfect and the flavor good enough that the first batch is already gone.
And that’s okay, because I have more plums.
Holiday Plum Butter Sweetened with Honey
6 cups plum pulp
1.5 cups wildflower honey
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)
2 tablespoons orange zest, finely minced
10 cardamom pods, cracked and ground (husks discarded)
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise
1 bay leaf
1. Break down the plums into pulp. Mine were frozen with the pits still in them, so I let them thaw, washed my hands well, and plunged in, fishing out the pits from the mixture. Then I used a Vitamix (any food processor will do) to make a roughly blended pulp.
2. Add all remaining ingredients except the vanilla bean and bay leaf. I gently warmed a cup of honey and stirred it into the plum pulp, then mixed in the Grand Marnier, finely minced orange zest, cardamom (cracked and ground with mortar and pestle), and lemon juice. I let all of this sit in the fridge overnight, because I wanted to give the mixture a chance to come together so I could taste it before cooking. (Letting a mixture sit for a night or even an hour is a good thing to do if you think you may want to make some adjustments to the flavor.) The plums were very tart so I decided to add a half cup more honey before cooking, for the total of 1.5 cups.
3. Add the vanilla bean and bay leaf, then cook. I brought the mixture to a steady but gentle boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Then I almost immediately turned down the heat to medium low — and then down even further as cooking progressed. Watch for sticking and stir as needed — toward the end, you’ll be stirring often. After cooking for about 30 minutes, I used an immersion blender to turn the mixture buttery smooth, then continued cooking until the mixure was very thick, about 40 minutes. There was a good clear track across the bottom of the pan (the track filled in verrry slowly) to tell me the butter was done.
4. Store in the fridge or process in a hot-water bath. For me, this recipe yielded about two pints of plum butter for the fridge. If I’d canned it, I would have left 1/4″ head space and processed the jars for 10 minutes in a hot-water bath.