Baked Plum Jam (Pečený Slivkový Lekvár)

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If you are a frequent visitor to this cooking site, you have surely come across multiple posts in which I am grumbling about the difficulty of finding plum jam in the United States. Plum jam (slivkový lekvár) is an essential ingredient in Slovak cuisine. It’s thick and does not run, which makes it the ideal filling for koláče, buchty, sweet pierogi, or jam turnovers. There is also a popular dish made with whole plumes, plum dumplings.

Long story short, I decided try making my own plum jam. The difficulty is that I couldn’t actually find fresh plums. I started this project in December, long after the plum season ended. On top of that, the plums that can be found in my local grocery stores are the big red kinds, not the small blue Damson plums used in Slovakia. However, I noticed that the plums on the cover photo of the package of D’Noir prunes looked very much right! So I figured, perhaps I could try making jam from prunes – which are basically just dehydrated plums. The end result was quite satisfactory, although the color of the jam ended up more brown than blue. Below you will find the recipe. As you will see, making your own plum jam is actually quite easy.

Ingredients: either fresh plums (Damson) or prunes (I used 2.5 packages), shot of rum, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, brown sugar to taste, plus mason jars and canning thongs
Time:About two days from start to finish, but the baking part takes between 3-4 hours

This post is actually the result of three different tries. They all started with the same ingredients but there were differences in the processing. The first try, for which I don’t have any pictures, was made in a pot by cooking the jam. This is a little bit messy and time consuming. I later stumbled upon a recipe on a Slovak recipe site calling for the jam to be baked (pečený). This actually makes perfect sense. On the stove top, the heat is delivered from one end only. Unless you continuously stir the jam, it becomes quite easy to burn it. On the other hand, the oven gives you a nice uniform heating from all sides. Brilliant!

Try #2 (Baking)

The issue with the first jam was that it was quite thin – I didn’t cook it long enough. I used the baking method in try #2.

add vinegar to plums add rum to plums add brown sugar
If using prunes, let them first soak in water overnight. I then added one tablespoon of vinegar and a shot of rum, for taste. I also added about two heaping tablespoons of brown sugar.
start baking plum jam baking plum jam fully baked plum jam
Next place the pan in the oven preheated to 390F. Wait for the jam to come to a boil and then lower the temperature to about 350F to maintain boiling. Stir the jam about once per hour. It will take about 3 to 4 hours for the jam to sufficiently thicken.
making kolache and buchty baked kolace and buchty
I actually let this jam bake too long (about 5 hours) and it ended up being too thick for spreading on bread. However, it was fine as a sweets filling, so I used it to make some kolache and buchty. I also made a poppy seed roll.

Try #3 (Blending)

The other issue with #2 and also #1 was that since I used whole prunes with the skins intact, the jam was not particularly creamy. So I figured I could improve the texture by first running everything through a blender. This was try #3. The texture ended up better, but I was less impressed with the resulting color. It ended up more brown and less the desired dark blue / black.

rehydrated prunes blending prunes prune paste baking prune paste
Start as before by soaking the prunes overnight, and then adding rum, vinegar, and sugar. I then ran everything through a blender.
start of baking prune jam end of baking prune jam
And bake just as before. First use a hotter oven to bring the prune jam to boil, and then lower the heat to “simmer”. Don’t forget to stir. I continued baking until the jam got to the consistency shown in the second picture.

Preserving (Canning)

Finally, if you are making a lot of jam, and need it to last the whole year, you will need to preserve it. This is done by spooning the jam into mason jars, and then heating them fully covered in boiling water. This heating accomplishes two things: it kills off harmful bacteria, and provides an airtight seal that prevents new bacteria from getting in.

disinfecting mason jars filled mason jars using thongs to remove jars after canning canned jars
While the plum jam is baking, disinfect your mason jars and lids by boiling them in water with some dissolved vinegar. Next transfer the jam to the jars. Wipe off any jam from near the top. You should also try to eliminate any air bubbles, although I found this quite hard to do. I suspect the concern is that if these air bubbles escape from the jam, they could repressurize the volume, and release the lid. Screw on the lid and place in boiling hot water for at least 5 minutes to seal the jars. Then finally, use special canning thongs to carefully remove the jars from the hot water.
And that’s it! It’s actually quite easy. We used this jam to make little thank you gifts for friends and family who have sent us Christmas cards.