Urban Preserving: Italian Plum Jam with Star Anise

September 6, 2011(updated on August 30, 2021)

chopped plums

The day before Hurricane Irene hit the east coast, a massive box of fruit arrived on my doorstep. It was from the Washington State Fruit Commission, the folks behind the most fabulous website Sweet Preservation. A few weeks earlier, they’d emailed to ask if I’d be one of their Canbassadors again this year (last year’s recipes can be found here and here).

macerating plums

Last year, I got apricots and cherries. This year, it was a fun blend of Italian plums, apricots, nectarines and peaches. So far, I’ve made a small batch of lavender-infused, honey-sweetened apricot butter (you’ll see that one over on Simple Bites soon), an oven-roasted peach butter (it’s a technique I detail in my cookbook, but I’ll give you a little preview before the peaches are out of season) and this tiny batch of plum jam with star anise. The nectarines are still in the fridge, waiting for inspiration to strike.

truffle tremor

I only had about a pound of these little plums, so by necessity, this was a small batch. Chopped, there just over 2 cups of fruit. Combined with a moderate amount of sugar and three star anise flowers, I let this macerate at room temperature until it was beautifully syrup-y. Tasting every 15 minutes or so, I left the star anise in while it sat, but pulled them out before cooking, to ensure that I didn’t cross the line from gently flavored to something akin to Nyquil.

truffle tremor with plum star anise jam

As it was cooking, I tasted. Most of the time, I taste jam just once or twice as it cooks down. This time, I tried it at least five or six times because I was so in love with the way the plums played with the flavor of the star anise. As I tasted, I started thinking about the cheese I had in the fridge.

Awhile back, the folks from Cypress Grove sent me a few of their startling good goat cheeses. The idea was for me to dream up a few perfectly paired jams to match up with them. And while I hadn’t started this batch of jam thinking to couple it with one of those cheeses, it’s just gorgeous with the Truffle Tremor. The slight, mystical funkiness of that cheese just sings with the plums and their trace of star anise.

I’ve eaten the combination for lunch at least three times already. I can’t promise that there won’t be a fourth.

Recipe after the jump…

4 from 1 vote

Italian Plum Jam with Star Anise

Servings: 1 Pint


  • 2 1/2 cups chopped Italian plums
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 star anise blossoms


  • Combine chopped plums, sugar and star anise blossoms. Let sit for at least an hour, or until the fruit has gotten quite syrup-y.
  • Put fruit in a medium-sized pan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the jam thickens and passes the plate test.
  • Because this jam has such a small yield, you can skip the canning step and just pour it into the jars and pop it into the fridge. Or, you can pull out your small batch canning set-up and put up either one pint or two half pints (all the better to share with your friends!).

Disclosure: I received both the fruit and the cheese mentioned in this post at no cost to me. However, no money exchanged hands and all opinions expressed herein are my own.

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4 from 1 vote

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64 thoughts on "Urban Preserving: Italian Plum Jam with Star Anise"

  • Goodness, what a lovely thing to find after buying five pounds of these beautiful plums and having some leftover from making pflaumenkuchen tonight!

  • I have got to get some plums and try this. I love them, but haven’t tried them in jam before – which sounds totally dumb given the amount of jam I make. I especially love those jams that are so good you can’t stop trying to find ways to use them at every meal. This one sounds perfect!

  • This is similar to the Pflaumenmus that I make that every year, but it has other spices as well. I think I am going to give your recipe a try and use only the star anise. I like the way you have a nice chunky jam rather than nearly a puree that I usually do. Can’t wait to try this, thanks!

  • Perfect timing as I just picked up a pound of plums from the farmer’s market yesterday. Please continue with the mini batches — sometimes that’s all the fruit I have and/or it makes all the jam I have room for in my small pantry.

  • Sounds like a very tasty combination. I’m glad to see some Cypress Grove involved – their cheese is a favorite of mine and I live in Arcata, the same town that Cypress Grove calls home, so it’s great to see some of my local cheese on a favorite blog.

  • I have a tree-full of these. Well I did until yesterday morning. Since they were starting to fall all over, I figured I’d better pick them. I made plum and squash chutney, a plum cake, and am drying some. Maybe I’ll try some jam tonight.

  • Thanks for all your recipes. I’m new to canning this year and you’ve helped me so much…your canning 101 posts, explainations of techniques that transcend the particular recipe (e.g., crock pot fruit butter), and small batch recipes. I especially love your use of spices and other flavoring to make something different.

    Inspired by your jar collection I now compulsively check craigslist for cheap and vintage jars.
    When is your cook book coming out? In time for Christmas I hope.

  • I’m so happy to see this post as I just picked a few of my Italian plums off of my tree. I’m heading out of town in a couple of days, so wanted to use them up before I left.

    Do you leave the skins on your plums? It looks like it in the photo, but another recipe I read said the skin would be too thick to leave in the jam.


  • I have a bunch of plums I would love to use up today but I do not have any star anise and I do not want to drag my two year old and 37 week pregnant self to the store in the rain to get some! Do you think it would be ok to add cinnamon stick, nutmag or vanilla to it?

  • I am making this recipe today (my first time making jam ever!), and have a question about the cooking directions. When you say to bring to a boil and then cook for 10-15 minutes, do you mean to let it boil for that long? Thank you for any insight, and I apologize in advance for the rookie question!

    1. Yes, I mean that you have to actively boil the fruit in order to get it to turn into jam. It takes high heat to get the kind of change in consistency that we’re looking for.

  • For those of us who might be interested in larger-batch waterbath canning, do you think that you would make any significant changes to the recipe above when multiplying? I need to double check this against the basic plum jam recipe in the Ball book, but after a horrendous failed attempt at doubling a batch of raspberry jam last summer (raspberry syrup anyone?) I figured asking just in case wouldn’t hurt.


  • Oh boy! I made this last week after finding italian plums on sale and seeing this recipe on the same day-serendipity indeed! This is absolutely delicious and very pretty as well. Definitely getting my jam mojo on this season!

    *I doubled the recipe without any problems-it was a bit of a leap of faith but I hoped that it would work because it was still a relatively small batch. And at the very worst, I would have some kick ass syrup to use!

  • Made this recipe this morning. I love the flavour so much it won’t last the weekend. A keeper, for sure! Glad to hear you can double it without any problems; next time I will definitely be making a larger quantity.

  • I guess I’m a jam snob or something along those lines. I’ve worked my way through my spice cabinet adding things to jams and marmalades, and have decided that I prefer the pure fruit product. I may combine fruit, but I prefer to leave out the extraneous flavors.

    Keep on experimenting. It is a lot of fun.

  • I made a double batch of this today and it turned out glorious! The star anise is subtle but adds a wonderful layer to the flavor. My husband who doesn’t really like plums, or jams with skin and such in it, couldn’t stop eating it…success!

  • I just made the plum jam with cinnamon and nutmeg and it was dee-lish. I was a little hesitant because I have never made a no pectin jam before, but it turned out great. I have a green gage plum tree that runneth over this year. Do you think these plums would work with the star anise? Thanks.

  • Wow! what a nice change from raspberry and good old strawberry. The anise is such an amazing flavour with the plums. Will be great is some fall meat glazes I think! Thanks as always for some fresh, new ideas.

  • Quick question, if you do want to can it, does it need lemon juice or citric acid?
    Thanks so much for a great blog!

    1. Nope, plums are plenty acidic for canning without additional lemon juice. You can add it if you need it for flavor balancing, though.

  • I finally got around to trying this recipe – delicious! I had never tried Star Anise before. I didn’t even know what it was. I was just in Southeast Asia on vacation, and after reading about the spice trade and seeing pictures of star anise everywhere, I decided I had to buy some there and bring it home.
    My plum tree was loaded with fruit when I got home, but I put off picking because I was so busy unpacking and getting back to work. Two days later I went out to harvest, and they were ALL GONE except for one poor little plum. It was tragic! The crows got all of them. There wasn’t even one on the ground, just a few shreds of skin. I did buy some at the farmer’s market yesterday though to make the jam. I do love the jam and I love the star anise flavor. But I am still bummed it wasn’t made with *my* plums. Next year perhaps I will be smarter and beat the crows!

  • Finally got around to tasting the damson jam with star anise I made inspired by your recipe, although I combined it with a boil-the-fruit-first recipe because it promised that it would be easier to get the stones out.

    Truly awesome. Shame I only made a few jars.

  • I just made a double batch of this and it was AMAZING. I don’t even like anise normally, but it was perfect in this jam. I did add the anise stars back in for the last few minutes of cooking since it was still too subtle of a flavor for me beforehand. I love love love the color and flavor of this jam. Quite excited to have 3 jars (and a little extra in my fridge) for this one! Debating making another double-batch since it was so good! Thanks again for such a great suggestion!

  • Fantastic! I grabbed 25# today from Beechwood. Tarts for this weekend and then the rest into the freezer until inspiration sparks this Winter.

  • I have a time issue now so can’t make plum jam at moment. Do you recommend freezing them for later and if so can I freeze them whole? What method would you use? Should I cook them first and add sugar or wait till I am making the plum jam?

    Thank you

  • YUM! Just made a batch of this recipe when a neighbor gifted us a big bag of plums. Tripled the batch and got 4 half pints. Couldn’t get the temp past 205 but it set just fine. Thanks!

  • WOW!!!!
    I made this 2 weeks ago with a quart of plums I picked up at the local market. Tasted it last night and cannot wait to get back to the market today, hoping they still have some. This is my new favorite! I am not the biggest fan of anise flavoring, so took the star anise out maybe a bit too early, but won’t make that mistake this time. Its such a mild flavor that blends perfectly with the plums. And it set perfectly with just following the time for boiling – no thermometers or plate tests needed. (Though I’ll admit I am not very particular when it comes to how “well” my jam sets).

    Thanks for another winner!!!! If you were to see my cupboard shelves, you would see I’ve been checking off quite a few of your book and website recipes. Good thing I bake bread every week, ’cause we got a lot of jam!

  • I tried this recipe today.I made 3 batches and I would like to suggest renaming the recipe to”lick the pot clean” plum jam. the flavor of this jam is amazing.Thank you.

  • HI Marisa! I made this Plum jam with Anise and I am just in love with the whole idea! I will be building more probably tomorrow… I may have to double the recipe, as I know I am going to give it away and I will keep sampling it myself!
    Thank you thank you…. it’s wonderful!!

  • please oh please tell me there will be plums at the market for another couple of weeks. i just made this from a quart i bought on saturday and it is FANTASTIC. and i am clean out of half pints!! must make more for putting up!!

    it is sweet tart & rich and i will eat it by the spoonful on toast, just as prescribed. christmas will be a little bit merrier with a few more jars for giving. 🙂 thanks for another brilliant small batch recipe.

  • Just made a batch of this today, tossed in some cinnamon and. . omg. . . it’s the best jam I’ve ever had in my life! I was licking the spoon after I got them into jars. Simply amazing.

  • This jam is incredible. I made it twice and had to double the batch the second time around. It’s waaay too good for a small batch. Must be shared.

  • I have been wanting to make this since last year! I picked up some Italian plums at the market on the weekend and made this plus 1 pint of plums in honey syrup. This is the most amazing tasting and gorgeous looking jam. I doubled the recipe and came out with just under 3 half pints. I will be making a much larger batch of this next time because 3 jars just isn’t enough! Thanks for another delicious recipe.

  • Hi Marisa! I’ve been a huge fan of yours for years and have promoted your books in canning workshops I’ve taught. I’m just ready to make this jam now, and I have a silly question: Do you take the star anise out before you put the jam in the jars? I’m thinking yes, but I just want to be sure. Thanks!

    1. So sorry that the recipe in the book doesn’t specify! But yes, pull the star anise out so that it doesn’t over-infuse.

  • Ok, never mind – I was using the recipe from your book, which doesn’t specify, but just noticed the full directions above – thanks! (*sheepish grin*)

  • This plum jam with the star anise sounds VERY interesting. Here in the summer when the fruit is fresh I try to do things like this to keep for gift baskets at Christmas. It goes without saying I like to do more than one jar at a time. To me this is sort of like the little cookbook someone gave me for cupcakes and muffins where the recipe never makes more than 6 at a time. The thought was nice but laughable for me. I rarely do much baking for myself (I’m single and live on my own and now I’m diagnosed as Celiac and can’t eat gluten products anyway) and do quite a vast amount of baking for other people and functions of all different types.

    I realize you said you just had a small amount of plums on hand when you decided to do this recipe but did you ever try a larger batch? Would I increase the ingredients in the same proportions or should I keep the star anise down to a certain amount regardless of how many plums and how much sugar is used? Unfortunately I’ve learned that to double or triple recipes doesn’t necessarily mean every ingredients is increased in the same proportions. To get at least 6 or even 8 pints in a batch how many star anise would you suggest using? While I’ve used star anise in baking and other recipes before, its not a spice a have a great deal of experience with using. I’m definitely open to some suggestions here.

    1. You are not going to want to make a batch of this jam that yields 6 or 8 pints of jam. The reason that this recipe works is in part it’s small size. You could follow this recipe and use 2-3 star anise pieces instead of the cardamom, but I wouldn’t make the batch size any bigger. https://foodinjars.com/2014/08/giveaway-anolon-advanced-11-piece-cookware-set/

      The reason why you don’t want to make a double batch is addressed here: https://foodinjars.com/2011/01/canning-101-why-you-shouldnt-double-batches-of-jam/

      1. Hi, Marisa,
        Long time fan of your site, and have made so many of your recipes with great results including this one.

        Today I made something similar, using ground cinnamon instead since the hubby isn’t much of an anise fan. Also made a version of your peach-plum-ginger. Given that the latter recipe calls for 7 c of fruit and this one is a “small batch” with only 2.5 c, wouldn’t doubling it really just take it back to a “normal” size? I did just that, and in fact, I went up to 7 c of just plums since I have a LOT from our farm share to use up. I cooked it about 20 minutes rather than the 10-15 above, but that’s comparable to the peach-plum-ginger recipe.

        I realize a recipe for 6-8 pints like the OP mentioned would be too big for regular kitchens, so I’m really asking about the small/normal batch comparison. (And we aren’t fussy about the set, so softer sets works for us anyway.)

  • How long should the jam be processed for, if I wanted to can it in a boiling water bath? (And would that be okay, without any added lemon juice/acid?)

    Thanks Marisa!

  • Marisa, could this jam recipe be shelf-stable too? My in-laws have an Italian plum tree, and I want to make some plum jam to store. Would I need to add lemon for canning??

  • I’m not a fan of the black licorice flavor, but absolutely love this jam! Great flavor combinations and it’s not too sweet. Future me is going to be super happy adding this to oatmeal! I’m already thinking of buying another pound of plums to make a second batch to give away.

  • I did an experiment recently where I roasted 1 pound of halved plums with 1 tablespoon of sugar. The result was very sweet, syrupy loveliness. No need for any more sugar than that. I wonder if there is a way to can this?

    1. You could pack the roasted plums into jars and process like you would with peaches. Just know that with so little sugar, they will start to fade in color sooner than a higher sugar preserve will. Also, once open, they won’t have as long a lifespan in the fridge as a higher sugar preserve.