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What Is Plum Butter?

Kay Paddock
Kay Paddock

Plum butter, despite its name, is not actually a type of butter at all. It does not typically contain milk, butter or any other dairy products. Instead, it is a sweet, thick spread made from plums. It falls somewhere between the smooth texture of soft butter and the gelatinous texture of jelly or jam. Plum butter is usually eaten as a spread on bread items or is used to compliment meats and other dishes as a condiment.

Fruit spreads can be made at home from almost any type of fruit, or they can be purchased in most grocery stores. Plum butter is generally made by cooking fresh plums in a small amount of water until they are easily mashed. Recipes can call for short or long cooking times, as long as the fruit and its juice are reduced down to a fairly thick paste. Using a blender or other appliance to puree the fruit may help give the spread a smoother texture.


Cooking with plums usually calls for the fruit to be peeled first. Before making plum butter or most other plum dishes, dipping the plums into boiling water for about a minute can help make peeling easier. After the boiling water bath, the skins should come off easily and may not even require a knife to remove them. Additionally, the pit or stone inside the plum should be removed before cooking.

Sugar commonly is added for its sweetness as well as its thickening properties. Spices and seasonings may also be added — vanilla and citrus juices, such as lemon, orange or lime, are usually the most common ones. Some recipes for spiced plum butter enhance the sweetness and the plum flavor with a variety of ground spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.

The same general process for making plum butter is often used to make plum jam and jelly, plum preserves and similar types of recipes that call for cooking with fruit. The jam and jelly will generally also call for pectin to give the spread a gelatin-like texture. Plum preserves may also call for pectin and will also usually call for chunks of plum rather than a completely smooth texture. Plum butter and similar recipes can be refrigerated for use within two to three weeks, or they can be frozen for up to a year. Properly canned plum butter can be stored in a pantry for up to a year as well, but will often have the best taste and texture if used within about six months.

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