Plum Butter (Lekvár) with Less Sugar

Plum Butter, in Slovak called Lekvár, is one of the most beloved and commonly used fruit preserves in Slovakia and neighboring countries. Used in a range of desserts, cakes and sweet dishes this staple is enjoyed all year long. Back in the days most households with plum trees used to make their own Plum Butter.

My very first Jar of Plum Butter

Cooking Plum Butter is something I still clearly remember from my childhood – harvesting quantities of plums from trees in our backyard, removing pits for hours, even cleaning and sterilizing jars saved from pickles and jams from previous years. As the fall is slowly coming to New York City, the leaves are changing colors and evenings are suddenly chilly, the nostalgia has arrived and I finally made an attempt to make my very first jar of Lekvár.

What a Journey – cinnamon and anise were smelling through the whole apartment, simmering plums were filling up the room with warmth and kind of sentiment of the old days when we used to do this as a family. Far from home, I brought back memories of my childhood, and the joy of my first three jars of Plum Butter was worth the effort.

When you’re new to jam making, I encourage you to start small – with smaller quantities of plums so you won’t spend crazy hours standing next to a stove, cooking your jam. There are two ways of making plum butter – you can either cook it or bake it. This recipe is a cooked version that is more labor & time-intense but it is the way we traditionally make jams. I aim to try the baked version as well and will share the results.

A note to Sugar

Sugar is very important when making fruit butters, jams or preserves not just because of the taste but as well because of its’ anti-microbial properties. When used in low levels, sugars are a source of food for microorganisms encouraging their growth. At very high levels, however, sugar acts as a preservative, preventing the growth of microorganisms. Using just a little sugar in preserves, or in our case, in plum butter results in a shorter shelf life – you need to eat it within a couple of weeks. If you’d like to store your plum butter for months or even years then you’d need to add on the amount of sugar. The ratio of fruit and sugar would then be is 5 parts of fruit to 1 part sugar (5:1)

Fresh & Ripe Italian Plums from Farmer’s Market

Tips & Tricks

Before you start, here are some of my tips on how to make your first jar of plum butter (or any other fruit butter or jam) even if you’re a complete beginner or never made jam before in your life

Clean & Sterilize

  • Properly clean & dry all utensils, cooking pots, towels and jars that you’ll be working with

Mason Jars

  • Choose smaller-size jars to be able to finish them fast after opening. Remember to clean, sterilize & air dry the mason jars before using
  • How to sterilize jars: place jars and lids into a larger pot or deeper baking pan and pour in hot water (not boiling) until it reaches a third of the jars (we’re pouring water around the jars, not into the jars!). Bring water to a boil on the stovetop or place a baking pan with jars into the oven preheated to 350F. Leave your jars in boiling water, preferably covered, for 10 minutes from time steam emerges from the pot. Turn off heat and let jars stand in hot water until cool down. This way you’ll be sure that all bacterias are killed

Plums

  • Start with less amount of fruit – I would suggest around 3 or up to 5 kilos. The best for making plum butters are sweet, ripe plums. You can use any variety of plums but Italian plums are considered to be the most suitable for the plum butter

INGREDIENTS

~ 3 kg/ 6.5 lb Plums (preferably ripe and sweet)

up to 100g Sugar

Juice from 1/2 Lemon

1 Stick Cinnamon

1 Anise Star

2 Cardamom Buds

2 Tablespoons Rum (optional)


METHOD

1. Properly wash all plums two-three times under running water. Remove all pits, chop plums into smaller pieces and blend in a blender/ mixer to semi-smooth texture

2. Transfer blended plums into a big & heavy pot with a wide bottom and turn on low heat. Keep heat low through the whole cooking – too high heat can easily burn your plums. Add spices (cinnamon, cardamom and anise star) and rum to the plum mixture and bring it to simmer. You’ll start noticing a change in color after some thirty minutes of cooking. Keep stirring your jam constantly every couple of minutes to prevent burning – it is very important to keep stirring constantly in order to prevent burning

3. Keep your plums simmering on a low heat for at least two to three hours depending on the amount of plums and preferred consistency. Remember to stir all the time. Take the cardamom, anise star and cinnamon out from the jam after 2 hours of cooking. Some half an hour before you’re done with cooking (or after two and half hours since you started) add all the sugar you’d like to use and squeeze in lemon juice. The butter must evaporate at least by two thirds since the beginning of cooking

4. Let you plum butter to cool down for a couple of minutes then carefully pour the warm jam into clean mason jars. Close lids tightly and flip closed jars upside down. Cover with a thick blanket or kitchen towel and let them cool down slowly overnight. Then place jars to a dark cabinet or food storage and eat within a few weeks or a couple of months

Dobrú chuť,
Lenka 

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