Burdekin Plum Jam

Having collected and ripened enough Burdekin Plums to make some jam, as described in my previous post, I began experimenting. My results after many hours of simmering were mixed – but that’s what experimenting is all about, isn’t it?

Burdekin Plum Jam Recipe 1 – Del Turnbull

Big panful of ripe plums
Jamsetta [pectin]

Cover plums with water and boil gently for 1 ½ hours.
Strain and measure juice. (Put fruit out for wallabies, they love them.)
To every 5 cups of juice add 4 ½ cups sugar and ½ pkt of jamsetta.
Boil for 10 mins, try on a saucer in the fridge. If the surface doesn’t crinkle, boil another 5 mins and try again.
When it crinkles pour into preheated sterilised jars (in oven at 50 deg for 10 mins).
And that’s it.

This recipe is from Del Turnbull, someone I never knew, via a friend of mine who lives on Magnetic Island. It reads like the recipe of someone who made jams and preserves often enough that she didn’t need (or expect anyone else to need) much detail. I liked the way it neatly detours around the difficulty of estimating the amount of fruit, and the note about the wallabies.

Burdekin Plum Jam Recipe 2 – Rozefelds and Kane

1 kg ripe Burdekin plums (seeds in)
1 cup of white sugar
Juice of a medium sized lemon (pectin)

Place plums in a stainless steel saucepan (do not use aluminium).
Just cover the fruit with water, bring to the boil and cook for ten minutes.
Stir with a wooden spoon to remove the flesh from the seeds. The seeds can then be discarded.
The fruit can be left chunky or can be strained through a coarse sieve.
Add sugar and lemon juice.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
Test a small amount on a cold saucer to see if the jam is thickening. Boil a bit longer if necessary.
Bottle while hot into sterilised jars.

This recipe was attached to the historical article about the tree which I quoted in my previous post.

Burdekin Plum Jam Recipe 3 – found on Pinterest

1 kg fresh Burdekin plums,
Maple Syrup to sweeten (or sweetener of choice),
2 tbs lemon juice & a little pectin (I make my own pectin with organic apples & lemon juice but you can use a commercial one).

Almost cover fruit with water, boil 20-30 min until flesh leaves seeds. Discard seeds.
Puree fruit with water. Add other ingredients.
Boil until mix thickens to a ‘jam’ consistency.

This recipe was posted on Pinterest under “bush tucker” and “Rick Smith”. I reckon it’s a bit short on detail but include it for what it does offer.

Making jam

All of the jam recipes begin with ripe plums but we had a lot of near-ripe fruit, too, so I boiled a few of them for an hour and a half just to see what would happen. In a word, almost nothing. The water went pink and cloudy, but the plums didn’t even fall apart. The liquid tasted fruity and might have been useable for jam or jelly but I didn’t bother trying. The test did, however, make me cautious about how long the ripe fruit might need to be cooked: Del’s “hour and a half” seemed more plausible and Rozefelds & Kane’s “ten minutes” seemed highly unlikely.

Burdekin Plums – green, ripe, cleaned fresh pits, and weathered pits

So … a kilo of ripe plums went on the stove with enough water to cover them. After simmering and stirring them for ten minutes, the water was a nice bright pink but the fruit was still very solid; after another twenty minutes, no change except that the fruit had bleached as their colour went into the water; after another thirty minutes, the fruit was beginning to break open; after another thirty minutes (i.e., an hour and a half in total), only  a little more of it had broken apart but most of it was still solid.

At that stage I continued with Del’s recipe, since she had been closest to right so far. I poured it all through a sieve, added sugar and Jamsetta to the juice, put it back on the stove and simmered and tested until it seemed to be setting (closer to half an hour than to Del’s 10 – 15 minutes), and I bottled it. When it cooled I found that it hadn’t actually set but I managed to recover it by following directions on the Jamsetta packet, cooking it a bit longer with some extra pectin.

In the end I had a couple of jars of Burdekin Plum Jelly (not jam – I will come back to that in a minute) with a beautiful bright colour and a very pleasant flavour.

Burdekin Plum Jelly

I also had a lot of cooled cooked fruit. The skins were mostly unbroken and the flesh was still very firm – somewhat like fresh coconut in texture as I pulled it off the seeds. I then boiled the half-cleaned seeds for another hour and a half just to see whether the remaining flesh fell off. It didn’t.


  • Del Turnbull knew what she was doing but used the wrong word for the recipe. Her method works well, but the “fruit” left out for the wallabies would have still been whole fruit and her “juice” was just that. The difference between a jam and a jelly is that the former contains fruit solids and the latter is clear, so her recipe is for Burdekin Plum Jelly.
  • The other two recipes are so wrong about what happens to the fruit that I suspect their authors had never actually tried making the jam. I can believe that some plums are riper than others and but when the flesh needs to be prised off after an hour and a half…
  • The skins and flesh are still so tough, even after long cooking, that I wouldn’t like them in a jam anyway, so jelly is the better option.
  • Straining the juice through cloth, as recommended in other fruit jelly recipes, would improve the clarity of the jelly.
  • Most jelly recipes recommend using not enough water to cover the fruit, relying on its juice to make up the liquid. That wouldn’t work for Burdekin Plums (Del was right again) but boiling the juice for a while after removing the fruit would reduce its water content and mean less cooking after the sugar and pectin was added.

The learning process is always satisfying and in this case I have a good (edible) product to show for it, so the time I have put into the exercise has been rewarded.

There’s still more to do and learn, of course. As always, but even more than usual, I welcome feedback on what I’ve written. In particular, I would love to hear from anyone who can improve on the jelly recipe, or contribute a chutney or relish recipe.

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