Vanilla and Nutmeg Scented Plum Jam

Judging by the variety of gourmand fragrances, the kitchen is a terrific source of inspiration for perfumers, and the exchange happens the other way too. A perfumer turns to vanilla to round out a composition, and if you’re in doubt how to jazz up your dessert, try this familiar sweet note. Vanilla is versatile enough to play along side many different ingredients, but it pairs especially well with stone fruit. This was my thinking as I simmered plums with sugar and a generous dose of vanilla in an impromptu jam I had to devise with a surfeit of damsons. I splashed it over the bubbling jam so liberally that the kitchen was filled with vanilla scented steam within seconds.

plum jam2

The jam was very good, and my husband pronounced it the best plum jam he has tried, but I felt that something was missing. The sweetness of vanilla and plums was rich and deep, but I wished there was more bite and sparkle. When I returned to the kitchen for one more experiment, I added lemon zest and nutmeg towards the end, and the spicy-citrusy twist completed the picture. Now, this jam was not only perfumed as well as something from Serge Lutens, but it was also richly flavored.

Out of all jams that I make, this is the most straightforward. There is no macerating fruit with sugar overnight (although it would sure help), no multiple cooking sessions, and no straining. You simply mix everything together and cook it till the sugar dissolves and the fruit falls apart into a chunky puree and starts to thicken. For the small amount of fruit I suggest, it takes barely 10 minutes of cooking. I use less sugar than would be required for a traditional version, so I advise storing this jam in the fridge, but it will last well for weeks, if not longer.

plum-jam1

I have enjoyed this vanilla scented jam on yogurt, with goat cheese or oatmeal, but the best is probably on well-buttered toast, along with a cup of strong black tea.

plum jam3

Vanilla and Nutmeg Scented Plum Jam

1lb (approximately 500g or 3 cups) plums, stones removed, chopped in large pieces
1 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
juice and zest of 1/4 lemon
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg

Cut plums into halves or quarters, add lemon juice and sugar. If you’re using a vanilla bean, cut it in half, scrape out the seeds and cut the bean into 4 pieces. Add everything to plums.

Bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently over low heat, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved. If your plums are not juicy enough and don’t give off enough liquid to form thick syrup, add 1/4 cup of water.

Then boil for 5 – 10 minutes or until the jam thickens. Skim off the foam as needed. If using vanilla extract, add it right now, along with lemon zest and nutmeg.

Take off the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Fill hot sterilized jars carefully (see instructions for sterilizing jars here) and seal immediately. Cool completely and then store in the refrigerator. Yields about 3 pints.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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68 Comments

  • Sarah K: I can almost smell it! I love cooked plums. October 1, 2014 at 8:24am Reply

    • Victoria: Me too! Some plums like damsons taste even better when they are cooked. October 1, 2014 at 9:11am Reply

  • Isabelle: Thank you for sharing this improvised recipe Victoria ! This jam sounds very nice. Actually, it was your blog which first gave me the idea to experiment with jams, so I thought of you lately, when I had to deal quickly with a bunch of plums a friend gave me.
    Like you, I added vanilla to the plums, but then I went the other way : I reinforced the rich sweetness of the plums (a type we call reine-claude in France), with just a bit of rhum. It worked beautifully, and the result is juged a success by everybody who tried it. Thanks again for being such an inspiration! October 1, 2014 at 8:36am Reply

    • Victoria: We have been getting such delicious reine-claudes that I didn’t feel like cooking them at all. I’m going to the market later today, and I’ll see if I can find more of them still. A combination of plum and rum is wonderful, and I can imagine how delicious your jam tasted. October 1, 2014 at 9:13am Reply

      • rainboweyes: I also combine my plum jam with rum – and cinnamon. But vanilla and nutmeg sounds delicious too! October 1, 2014 at 2:24pm Reply

    • solanace: You make my mouth literally water. I love rhum in desserts, but never thought of rhum and plums. It sure is good! October 1, 2014 at 2:36pm Reply

  • Rebecca: I’ve been thinking of making jam but the receipes I saw were too complicated. This looks simple and must be very good. Vanilla makes everything better. October 1, 2014 at 8:39am Reply

    • Victoria: I grew up around people making jam all the time, because in Ukraine preserving the summer bounty for the winter was not a hobby as it is for me now, but rather an absolute necessity. There are many types of jams, and some are more complicated than others, but if you want to try making jam for the first time, make a small quantity and store it in the fridge. Once you get more experience, you can embark on more ambitious projects. It’s really a lot of fun, and the results are delicious. October 1, 2014 at 9:15am Reply

  • Michaela: I’m looking at the pictures like my dogs look at my steak. And I can almost smell them. Delicious. October 1, 2014 at 9:09am Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 I hope that you can try making it. It’s very simple to make, but its taste is big. October 1, 2014 at 9:17am Reply

      • Michaela: I’ll have to give it a try, for its simplicity and great flavor. And plums are in season now, perfect taste. October 1, 2014 at 9:42am Reply

        • Victoria: I love this time of fall when the fruit is still so good and plentiful. October 1, 2014 at 10:05am Reply

  • Bastet: My mother makes simple jams similar to this (although I don’t believe she has ever added vanilla) and I find they keep very well for at least several months in the freezer. October 1, 2014 at 9:37am Reply

    • Victoria: My grandmother and I tried making freezer jams last summer too, and yes, it’s true, they keep well and retain their flavor for months. It’s just that here at home my freezer is a size of a shoebox. October 1, 2014 at 10:01am Reply

      • Austenfan: You could try making really small pots? October 1, 2014 at 3:01pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’m tempted to take a photo of my freezer, but it’s too embarrassing, so I won’t. 🙂 Not even one pot will fit into it, since it already is stuffed to the brim. October 1, 2014 at 4:34pm Reply

          • Austenfan: You would probably really enjoy having a big freezer as you like cooking so much and jams and the like keep so well frozen.
            I have a huge freezer for my dog’s food. With a small corner for my own personal use. October 2, 2014 at 4:27am Reply

            • Victoria: We don’t have enough space for a big freezer, but yes, I would like one. Or maybe, a bigger fridge. Although I’m so used to being without that I don’t miss it much. October 2, 2014 at 5:53am Reply

              • Karen: If you don’t want to process jams in a water bath, you can also put them in the oven (275F for 20 minutes). When it’s warm outside, this method keeps your home from getting really hot. October 2, 2014 at 6:46am Reply

                • Victoria: That’s a neat trick, thank you. I don’t often make low sugar jams, so I don’t do much water bath processing. October 2, 2014 at 7:55am Reply

  • limegreen: Victoria — from reading your blog, I’ve determined that your house smells nice all the time! Your foodie descriptions are always so enticing. (I’ve been introduced to speculoos as a result of one of your earlier entries. Trader Joes in the US makes a famous Cookie Butter that is a speculoos spread but I never paid any attention to it until your review of Dries Van Noten, and I identified the speculoos in the cookie butter.)

    Have you tried rosemary with your jams (esp good with apple butter)? It might be too astringent for plums, perhaps. I don’t know the chemistry of these things. Rosemary is plentiful here and the local restauranteurs create desserts that are rosemary everything — sorbet, biscotti, apple-rosemary pie October 1, 2014 at 10:35am Reply

    • Victoria: Speculoos were my Belgian discovery, and I even made them at home. You can get anything with speculoos here–cakes, ice cream, chocolates. They are even used in some savory dishes.

      Apple and rosemary sounds like a great combination, and I imagine that plum and rosemary would work well too. I must try it in a chutney. October 1, 2014 at 4:37pm Reply

      • bregje: Since i live in Holland i’m very familiar with speculoos(although we call it speculaas).
        And this is the season for it!Speculaas-herbs can taste very good with meat(steak).
        But i like the cookies best,i think.In Holland(don’t know about belgium) we also have a special ‘sinterklaas’ small kind of speculoos called pepernoot.We used to make those in school.
        there’s nutmegg in them too,btw
        The Plumjam looks lovely…can almost taste it October 1, 2014 at 5:49pm Reply

        • Victoria: I haven’t seen pepernoot here, but Sinterklaas, speculoos (or in the Flemish lands, speculaas) are sold in a variety of forms. It’s such a fun holiday. October 2, 2014 at 4:02am Reply

          • bregje: Yes,i’ve always loved it too. First when i was a child and now in experiencing it through the eyes of my little nieces.
            You should try taai -taai and chocolate letters;).
            For me a lot of the smells are representative of fall into winterseason:Bishop-wine(warm red wine with spices,clove,oranges),mandarin,speculaas,marzipan,chocolate.
            Right now,fall is still fresher:more about rain,dirt,leaves,grass,mushrooms.

            on another note:a perfumelady sprayed Tommy hilfiger endlessly blue on me before i could say no and when i got home i thought the neighbours baked a cake with plums because it smelled so sugary and fruity in our house ,only to discover it was me!
            i’m not sure i like it though;i don’t think smelling like pie is for me… October 5, 2014 at 6:08pm Reply

    • Joy: I still have several pounds of apples from a tree here. I am going to try apple butter with rosemary. What a intriguing idea! October 1, 2014 at 4:54pm Reply

    • Annikky: I’m eating speculoos spread out of a jar as I type this. This thing truly is one of the great achievements of mankind. October 2, 2014 at 5:35am Reply

  • Aisha: I still make that raspberry jam you featured on your blog last year. 🙂 This sounds just as delicious — and just as easy to make. I’m going to have to try it soon. October 1, 2014 at 10:44am Reply

    • Victoria: So glad that you liked it! This one is just as easy, if not easier. 🙂 October 1, 2014 at 4:40pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I had to look up what damsons were which was easy. The recipe sounds delicious 🙂 October 1, 2014 at 11:04am Reply

    • Victoria: The plums in the photos here are a type of damson, although the seller wasn’t sure. “They are red plums. From Namur. Belgian plums,” he mused. October 1, 2014 at 4:41pm Reply

      • Austenfan: I thought damsons were smaller and had a darker skin, but admittedly I’m no plum expert. All this talk has reminded me of my plum stone experiment which I’ve described here before. October 2, 2014 at 9:22am Reply

        • Victoria: I think so too. The first batch I bought were definitely damsons, and they were much smaller and darker. October 2, 2014 at 11:06am Reply

  • behemot: I am going to make it this week:)
    Thank you, Victoria. October 1, 2014 at 12:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: Hope that you like it. 🙂 October 1, 2014 at 4:42pm Reply

  • AnnE: I love plums, and this sounds delicious!

    The mention of Damson plums always brings back memories of my mother and the cordial she used to make with them. It was really no more than fruit macerated in vodka with plenty of sugar, but it was luscious! October 1, 2014 at 1:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: Your mother’s damson cordial sounds wonderful! My great-grandfather used to make something similar, and it was good but lethal. 🙂 October 1, 2014 at 4:43pm Reply

  • solanace: Your house must smell delicious! October 1, 2014 at 2:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: It smelled very good in the kitchen when I was making the jam! October 1, 2014 at 4:44pm Reply

  • Di: Do you bottle and seal that jam or do you only eat it fresh? October 1, 2014 at 3:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: I do. I made a larger portion and canned half of it. I only recommend removing the vanilla bean before you seal the jam for longer storage, otherwise the flavor will become too smoky over time. October 1, 2014 at 4:31pm Reply

  • maja: My mouth is watering. 🙂 I simply love plum jam since I grew with it. I remember making a small batch of it last summer adding vanilla and something else, maybe a touch of cinnamon? It was so good.
    We’re still eating strawberry and raspberry jam but I might try your recipe during the weekend. 😉 October 1, 2014 at 3:48pm Reply

    • Victoria: I made only one type of jam this summer–cherry jam, so I’m now catching up. My raspberry jam is from two years ago, and it’s still very good. I had some for breakfast this morning. October 1, 2014 at 4:30pm Reply

  • Andy: My favorite way to use these Damson type plums is to make Zwetschgendatschi. There was a great segment on NPR last summer I can remember, with a baker who told the story of her mother, these plums, and the dessert. It was very heartfelt and motivated me to make Zwetschgendatschi in the first place.

    Anyway, I rarely make jam, because somehow I’ve come to associate all jam making with sterilization and canning paraphernalia, which equally interests and frightens me. The truth is that most any amount of jam I make is too small to need this kind of storage anyway, but it still prevents me from regularly making jam. This recipe may move me though. Plums and nutmeg? I’m there! October 1, 2014 at 4:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: Those plum sheet cakes you’re speaking of really tempt me whenever I visit Germany. But then again, plum anything is good enough for me. 🙂

      I don’t can jam, if it’s made with the equal weight of sugar to fruit. I only do it if the concentration of sugar is lower. And sterilizing jars is really not difficult–wash well with baking soda, pop in the oven. My grandmother steams jars over boiling water, but I find that too fiddly. You can also freeze your jam, which lets you avoid canning, and you can get away with using less sugar and less cooking. There are many different ways to go about it. October 1, 2014 at 4:29pm Reply

      • Andy: Well, that’s encouraging. I hadn’t even thought about freezing, which sounds like it could work well. For jams with equal parts fruit and sugar, do you always store them in the fridge and eat them immediately instead of canning? October 1, 2014 at 5:44pm Reply

        • Victoria: If I make jams with equal parts of fruit and sugar, then I can them. But I don’t process them in a water bath. I simply ladle hot jam into hot jars and seal them. Cool, check the seal and you can store them for a couple of years. October 2, 2014 at 4:01am Reply

          • Andy: Wow! I may have to try this type of jam, it sounds like something gratifying I could produce fairly easily. To make something seasonal would of course be ideal, but even your raspberry cognac variety sounds like a very appealing mini project. October 2, 2014 at 8:18am Reply

            • Victoria: The raspberry cognac jam freezes really well. My grandmother tried it last summer, and we enjoyed some when I visited. October 2, 2014 at 11:14am Reply

    • rainboweyes: Are Damson plums the same as Zwetschgen?
      I had a dispute over it with my mother in law lately who got a jar of damson jam from an English friend and told me it was a type of fruit we didn’t have in Germany.
      I love all kinds of plum cakes, recently I made one scented with orange zest and walnuts.
      Unfortunately the plum season seems to be coming to an end here 🙁 October 1, 2014 at 4:35pm Reply

      • rainboweyes: Btw I think vanilla and amaretto liqueur would make a good addition to the jam too! October 1, 2014 at 4:37pm Reply

        • Victoria: Definitely! Plums and almonds are such natural partners. October 1, 2014 at 4:49pm Reply

        • Andy: I love this idea of amaretto! I may try that if I make this jam. October 1, 2014 at 5:45pm Reply

      • Victoria: Yes, I think so. At least, they look identical to my non-expert eye. Germany has so many different types of plums, so I bet that it is the same one. In Ukraine, we call this type of plum vengerka, “a Hungarian one”. October 1, 2014 at 4:49pm Reply

        • rainboweyes: Yes, Zwetschge is the Polish “wegierka” October 1, 2014 at 4:50pm Reply

      • Andy: From what I understand too, Damson plums and Zwetschgen are the same thing–Damson is simply a name for the particular type of plum (of which there are many varieties) that I believe may be originally native to Great Britain, and are now commonly grown across all of Europe. October 1, 2014 at 5:50pm Reply

  • AndreaR: Ah, plum jam. Such a lovely memory for me. My cousins and I would have my grandmother’s homemade plum jam on thick slices of buttered bread when we went to visit her. October 1, 2014 at 4:48pm Reply

    • Victoria: This really makes me hungry, Andrea! I can just imagine the taste of this tartine. October 1, 2014 at 4:50pm Reply

  • Christine: Hi Victoria, You don’t have to comment back. I know you’re busy but I just wanted to let you know that a great rose chypre perfume is Victoria’s Secret “So in Love” You might already know about this one. Even when it has aged a little the chypre quality comes out great. See it here: https://www.victoriassecret.com/beauty/fragrance/so-in-love-eau-de-parfum-victorias-secret?ProductID=193178&CatalogueType=OLS October 1, 2014 at 9:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Christine! I will definitely check it out. October 2, 2014 at 4:03am Reply

  • Annikky: This looks and sounds lovely. I make similar jam, but I’ve never added lemon juice nor nutmeg, so I should try that – especially as I haven’t made any jam this year, yet. What I do, though, is use brown sugar: it adds a caramel touch and I love anything caramel-related. October 2, 2014 at 5:13am Reply

    • Victoria: Lemon juice is a good touch in most jams, because it adds a bright note that fruit loses after cooking. It also helps the jam set. Incidentally, if you want jam to set nicely, you should use slightly underripe fruit, which contain more pectin. October 2, 2014 at 7:50am Reply

  • Ariadne: My mother used to make a vat of Rumtopf with Autumn fruits. Keep you warm all Winter it will ;+) October 2, 2014 at 6:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: Did she cover different fruit with alcohol? October 3, 2014 at 4:49am Reply

      • Ariadne: I had an apple and cherry one she ‘incubated’ with dark rum. After the second month of layering it was POTENT and we put it on vanilla ice cream. She made it in a gorgeous porcelain container that I guess was specially made for Rumtopf. October 3, 2014 at 11:05am Reply

        • Victoria: Because I have this love for all sorts of ceramic and porcelain containers, I, of course, had to google what is used for Rumtopf, and wow, they are beautiful. I regret missing the summer bounty to make Rumtopf now, but next spring, I will definitely do it. October 3, 2014 at 11:09am Reply

  • Aurora: A very tempting recipe, Victoria, damsons are plentiful in the UK at the moment, I will make this jam this we.

    I especially like your use of nutmeg, which I usually only have use of for cauliflower. Another spice I don’t use much is mace, even though it is there sitting in the cupboard. October 3, 2014 at 7:57am Reply

    • Victoria: I think that mace is a beautiful spice, but it works best paired with something, rather than on its own. For instance, it goes well with pepper, cinnamon, coriander, fennel, and with herbs like thyme or rosemary. As for nutmeg, I like it with almost any stone fruit, in creamy white sauces, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, cabbage of all sorts. And in hot chocolate! If you have tonka bean, try grating a little bit of both into your hot chocolate for the ultimate decadence. October 3, 2014 at 11:12am Reply

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