Mirabelle Jam

mirabelle jam recipe

My favorite fruits are plums, which, confusingly for anglophones, are called prunes, in French, or pruneaux, when they are dried. (And boy, are they delicious!) They show up late at the markets in Paris, but stick around longer, overlapping with apples and pears, which arrive in early fall. Most of the plums that you see in Paris markets aren’t the tart varieties that are eaten out of hand, but are more suitable for baking.

Come late summer, early fall, quetsches (prune plums) and Reine Claudes hit the stands, as well as mirabelle, tiny cherry-tomato-sized fruits that are sweet, with a rich plum flavor and little acidity. Especially in the Lorraine, they are often used in tarts because when cooked, they don’t have a lot of water in them, and cook to a thick, jam-like consistency when cooked on top of a tart.

People rhapsodize over mirabelles, almost to the point of being obsessionnelle. They have almost a cult status in France. I liked them just fine, but prefer tart and tangy fruits, like apricots and plums, to sweeter fruits. Although that never stopped me from eating a ripe, juicy Hayden mango. Or Reine Claude plums, for that matter. So go figure. But then I realized I shouldn’t compare them to other plums, and I should enjoy them for their deep, syrupy, jammy flavor, which intensifies when cooked or baked.

Mirabelle Jam recipe

I’d been eyeing the mirabelles at the market for the last couple of weeks and I finally got around to picking up a barquette of them. Of course, I snacked on a few of them as I shopped, until I got home and unpacked them from my bag. Speaking of shopping at the market, I’d mentioned on social media that I like to taste some fruits before I buy them, like plums, because the quality can vary and I want to make sure I am getting good ones. Which prompted someone to ask me about taking tastes at the markets, as visitors are often surprised to find at Paris markets, vendors don’t offer the copious tastes that they do at markets elsewhere.

Some of it, of course, if that they don’t want to give away the food they are selling for free. But another is that most shoppers in Paris have their favorite markets, and favorite vendors. (The handsome sausage guy from the Auvergne at my market, for example, presides over a stand that I particularly spend a lot of time at – for some reason…one being is that he always offers me samples.) So generally you shop from the same people for certain things because you know the quality of what they have. I get garlic from one person – and sometimes onions. Then I go to the North African fellows for parsley, cilantro and mint. The elderly twins who have a farm are where I get my lettuce from. I could spend hours at one particular stand, inspecting the sausages. Then I head over to the apple growers to rifle through their bins of dented apples, which they discount, as well as picking up a bag of Belgian endive from them. For all other fruits, I wander around and see what looks best, because I’m particularly picky about what I bring home.

Mirabelle Jam recipe

For something like mirabelles or cherries, it’s fairly common to ask to try one. I’m not sure if you can at some of the swankier markets, but I do and have never been refused. I think the vendors just don’t want to put plates out food out for people to sample, partially because Paris ain’t Costco. But also, they are so busy helping customers they don’t have time to arrange samples. So you need to politely take the initiative. At some of the multicultural markets, I do see people just grab stuff – but I wouldn’t, even if I knew the vendor. If  you ask and they say no, accept it and move on to someone who will let you try whatever you’re interested in.

(On a related note, I was setting up for a booksigning once in Paris and brought brownies, and I had arrived a little early to cut them up. A woman walking by asked if she could have one and I replied that if she could wait a moment until I was done, that would be great. Well, she didn’t feel like it and stuck her hand under the long serrated knife I was cutting brownies with, to snatch a bite. The poor dear almost lost a finger! And I’m not saying that would have entirely been by accident…)

Mirabelle Jam recipe

Fortunately most people are nice. Especially me, since I ran home to make a batch of mirabelle jam for our breakfast the next morning. The lovely little plums are fun to pluck the little pits out of and they cook quickly. The season is almost over, so I may have to go back and get more at the market this coming week. And I’ll probably need to replenish my sausage supply as well. And if you ever see me slicing brownies, I recommend that you exercise a bit of patience, and wait a moment before grabbing a sample.

mirabelle plum jam recipe

Mirabelle Jam
Print Recipe
1 jar, about 8 ounces (250g)
Note that with this recipe I use less-sugar than traditional jam so it will not keep for months and months. I would imagine these proportions would work well with other sweet plums, like Reine Claudes (greengage) and prune plums, but for tart plums, like Santa Rosas, you might want to add more sugar to counterbalance the tartness. To preserve (can) the jam, you can follow the guidelines here. The recipe can easily be doubled or scaled up.Because this is a jam that isn’t mean for long-conservation, I just eyeball it when it’s ready (in Step 3). However if you’re unsure, I’ve given a couple of methods for checking for doneness. If you do the “wrinkle test,” put the plate in the freezer when you start making the jam.
1 pound (450g) mirabelle plums
2/3 cups (130g) sugar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
optional: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon kirsch or eau-de-vie
1. Pit the mirabelles.
2. Put the pitted fruits in a non-reactive saucepan. Add enough water so it’s about 1/4-inch (a scant 1cm) deep in the pan. Cover and cook over medium heat, until the mirabelles are cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes. (You should have about 2 cups of cooked mirabelles.)
3. Add the sugar and lemon juice and continue to cook the mirabelles over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid looks syrupy and thick. If you want to check it for doneness, you can turn it off and put a generous dab on a chilled plate in the freezer and check it in a few minutes, when it’s cold: if it wrinkles when you nudge it, it’s done. If using a candy thermometer, the jam will set at around 218-220ºF (103-104ºC).
4. Remove from heat, add the kirsch or eau-de-vie, if using, and balance the flavor with a little bit more lemon juice, if desired. (When cool enough to taste.) Scrape the jam into a clean jar, cover, and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Storage: The jam will keep in the refrigerator for at least two weeks.

Related Posts and Links

Baking Ingredients and Substitutions

Apricot Jam

Easy Jam Tart

Cherry Plum and Ginger Jam (Cooksister)

Seville Orange Marmalade

Mirabelle Plum and Almond Frangipane Tart (Tarlette)

Medlar Jelly

 

 

 

 


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46 comments

  • September 21, 2015 9:03am

    I didn’t know they are called Mirabelle, it is actually such a perfect name for them. I love those little gems. And I think this jam is amazing!

  • Katelyn
    September 21, 2015 5:32pm

    Clear Creek Distillery in Oregon has a FANTASTIC mirabelle brandy– I don’t think I’ve ever seen just the fruit for sale, but now I’ll look for it!

  • microbes
    September 21, 2015 5:34pm

    Are these available in the U.S.? I don’t recall ever seeing them in a farmers’ market or supermarket. Are they called anything else?

    We are in Paris now; what a gorgeous city! This isn’t our first visit and every time I’ve been here the beauty of the city thrills me!

  • September 21, 2015 5:48pm

    OH! I never knew they were called Mirabelles. They grew wild all over the hillside where I grew up (in the Oakland hills in California) and we would climb the trees to eat them and slingshot them at the mean boys. The only other time I saw them was on a horribly long bike ride in Sonoma county. They were growing on the side of the road, where I stopped for blackberries (any excuse) and thought I was hallucinating when I saw them in the trees. I wish I knew where to buy them! They have always reminded me of my childhood.

  • Danita
    September 21, 2015 5:53pm

    A friend of mine has a plum tree with small yellow plums that look similar to these, but they are tart and somewhat watery. The tree was on her property when she bought it, but she doesn’t believe the plums are native to this region (WA). I have made plum butter with them and they are quite good. I would love to find these mirabelle plums in the market. I never see yellow plums in the stores or market in the Seattle area.

  • Mrs. Gibson
    September 21, 2015 5:58pm

    David, it is so nice to see pictures of Mirabelles. The US market has not discovered them yet. I have three Mirabelles trees in my private orchard in RI. They are magic, expecially in a tart. I hope you will make one for us! Yours are Mirabelles de Nancy or Metz?

    • le pâtissier
      September 22, 2015 6:21am

      dear ms. gibson,
      looking at the pictures: they seem to be “mirabelles de metz”, more colorful, smaller and with a thinner skin than the “mirabelles the nancy.” there are many other varieties, too. for more information on mirabelles see:
      http://web04.inpl-nancy.fr/ENSAIA/marie/web/ntic/pages/2011/lorain.html
      and
      http://www.inao.gouv.fr/produit/3410

      • Adriana
        September 22, 2015 9:56am

        In the U.S., Raintree carries:
        Metz
        Nancy
        Parfum de Septembre
        Geneva

        Which is best for flavor?

        • le pâtissier
          September 22, 2015 10:16am

          from the varieties i know (there are quite many -and many i unfortunately don’t know) i prefer the small mirabelles de metz with their yellow-golden-red hue and (when they’re ripe) their supersweet, honeylike taste.

  • September 21, 2015 5:59pm

    Like you I haven’t been that impressed with mirabelles raw or in tarts, but I made mirabelle jam for the first time recently, and it’s really lovely, with a honeyed flavour. I also made Reine-Claude/greengage jam with a touch of orange juice and some chopped walnuts — yummy!

  • September 21, 2015 6:08pm

    Btw, I used my cherry pitter to remove the pits in these recently! It does 99% of the work.

  • Gayle
    September 21, 2015 6:36pm

    My girlfriend who just moved back from living in Paris for about 7 years, made Mirabelle eau de vie each season. It was to swoon over.

    I tried my hand at with Shilo plum eau de vie this summer, because that’s what we have here in New England. I used her metric recipe.

    Unfortunately, I converted the metrics wrong, and ended up with 31 bottles of Shilo plum eau de vie.

    Any marketing managers out there looking for work??

    • September 22, 2015 11:09pm

      Oh, if only!!! But at least it will last for ages, and you’ll have many a warmed winter with your eau de vie!

  • Josh
    September 21, 2015 6:49pm

    just to confirm…..plums peel or no peel?

    • September 22, 2015 9:13am
      David Lebovitz

      They are unpeeled. The peels are where a lot of the flavor of plums are.

      • Josh
        September 24, 2015 4:53pm

        Thanks!

  • Christina
    September 21, 2015 7:07pm

    These are one of my favourite fruits and I planted a tree about 20 years ago (Washington state area). It is a finicky bearer, but this year had a huge crop. While waiting for them to ripen the grey squirrels threw 90% of the crop to the ground and carried them off. I wound up with only 4 jars of this precious jam. I almost never see this plum in the markets and am looking for a squirrel deterrent system!

  • berit
    September 21, 2015 7:27pm

    “People rhapsodize over mirabelles, almost to the point of being obsessionnelle. ”

    That explains why they are so prominently mentioned in the book “The parfum”. Not sure if it is known outside of Germany, but if you can give the English translation a try. It’s really really good!

  • September 21, 2015 9:19pm

    A sample please? Not a brownie!!! No, Honey-Bunches, I want jam!

    I hope Romain is not the jealous sort. There for a moment I thought I’d see sliced sausages with a plop of jam and Mr.Sausage offering us samples. ;) BTW, those two might just go together if you think about it. It would have that sweet and salty thing going for it.

    P.S. Romain, there is this precious coffee purveyor I’m acquainted with…tall, dark, handsome. Would you like a photo to pin to your fridge?

    ;)

  • Chandler in Las Vegas
    September 21, 2015 9:37pm

    Daveed, A handsome man who is generous with his sausage is always a reason to dally.

  • Jacqui Kruzewski
    September 21, 2015 10:13pm

    I spend a lot of time in Poland (I’m here at the moment), where they seem to totally ignore mirabelles. My friend is a fruit farmer who considers them as weeds, believe it or not.
    On Saturday I couldn’t believe my luck when I discovered quite a few mirabelles in the village. It’s getting a little late in the season and most of the fruit is on the ground, but in good condition. I got some very strange looks as I was scooping them up, but it was worth the embarrassment when I was able to make a couple of large jars of jam. This jam is more traditional, quite thick and well set. I shall go back for more fruit tomorrow and do it your way, as we’ve already nearly polished off one jar of the jam.
    I also use a cherry stoner, which makes light work of a job I don’t particularly enjoy.
    Thank you for this very timely article. I’ve sent it to my friend – maybe he’ll revise his opinion now he realises it’s not just his mad Welsh friend who values mirabelles!

  • September 21, 2015 11:09pm

    I adore plums, but I primarily think of them as hand fruit. That jam sounds divine, and the color is sunshine in a jar.

  • Jessica
    September 21, 2015 11:21pm

    When I was little my family spent some time living outside of Paris and then returned to spend a summer in Autun when I was a teen. We visited some old friends at their family’s summer house in Champagne and I spent the afternoon with two older women picking and then making jam from mirabelles. Thank you for reminding me of this memory – both of the women are now gone, but this afternoon and another spent tasting Champagne with them for the wedding of one’s daughter still remain.

  • cindy m.
    September 22, 2015 2:01am

    Oh, I loved mirabelles so much from my time in Paris, I ordered a baby tree from Raintree Nursery and this was the first year it bore fruit. Divine! I believe my variety is called “Parfum de Septembre” although the fruit was ready at the end of July in Oakland. Next year we’ll make jam or eau de vie if there are any left!

    • Adriana
      September 22, 2015 4:59am

      Cindy, thanks for the source! Raintree has two Parfum de September plum varieties; one is St Julian and the other is M2624 which ripens 2 weeks later than other Mirabelles, do you know which one you have?

      • Adriana
        September 22, 2015 5:00am

        Correction, St Julian ripens two weeks later.

  • Gavrielle
    September 22, 2015 2:26am

    Re pitting – I have a damson plum tree for jam, and I found out accidentally that’s it’s a lot easier to remove the pits if you freeze the plums first, then yank out the pits when the plums are partially defrosted.

    • September 22, 2015 9:12am
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks. Some people stew the plums first, then pull out the pits. That may be easier if you are pitting a lot of them, but I usually just slice the side and extra the pit.

  • Victoria
    September 22, 2015 2:27am

    I have a tree in my yard in south Texas called a Japanese plum loquat tree — they grow everywhere and are almost like a wild tree. Everyone I know ignores the fruit except the guys working on my house when I moved in were eating the fruit. It tastes kind of like a cross between an apricot and plum. The fruit looks a lot like mirabelles. Someone told me not to eat the fruit — that it is full of worms. Have you or anyone heard of it?

    • Adriana
      September 22, 2015 4:33am

      Loquats are delightful. We had a tree when we lived in Sarasota, Florida. Try making a light pancake syrup, it’s wonderful!

  • Victoria
    September 22, 2015 2:52am

    I googled loquat and found this…”The loquat has a high sugar, acid, and pectin content. It is eaten as a fresh fruit and mixes well with other fruits in fresh fruit salads or fruit cups. The fruits are also commonly used to make jam, jelly, and chutney, and are often served poached in light syrup. Firm, slightly immature fruits are best for making pies or tarts. Loquats can also be used to make light wine. It is fermented into a fruit wine, sometimes using just the crystal sugar and white liquor.”

    This year we had unusual rains and the loquat was loaded with fruit which ended on the ground fermenting — what a smell! I can’t wait till next year so I can make jam and wine. Thanks for bringing my attention to this overlooked fruit, David.

  • Caroline L.
    September 22, 2015 3:35am

    How funny, I just opened a tiny jar of jam made with mirabelles and Riesling that I picked up in Paris on vacation in May. It’s delicious with cheese and a good crusty bread.

  • Adriana
    September 22, 2015 4:38am

    What a tease! Today is our second to the last day of a week in France and I’m in a B&B in Sarlat with no kitchen access! I’d love to take a jar back. Any idea where I might pick up a jar of mirabelle jam in Dordogne or in Paris tomorrow?

    • September 22, 2015 9:11am
      David Lebovitz

      Most shop, including specialty food stores, sell Mirabelle jam in France. Some supermarkets may have it (even Bon Maman makes a jam with it), but if there is an épicerie or market near where you will be, you may be able to find a jar there.

      • Adriana
        September 22, 2015 9:59am

        Great, Sarlat is Foodie Heaven with Foie Gras and Duck Everything Everywhere. I’ll drop into an épicerie before heading out.

  • Irene
    September 22, 2015 5:30am

    Love the post. I always taste grapes in the grocery stores here. Ours come from California, are rudely expensive and are sometimes quite sour. Have a look at step 2 in the recipe. Missing a word, I think. Keep up the great work!

  • September 22, 2015 7:04am

    Oh I love this! I only wish the post had come month earlier when I got six pounds of mirabelles from a neighbor in Oakland!

  • Jerry
    September 22, 2015 9:10pm

    I read that these plums are a protected-origin fruit hailing from Lorraine, France, and they are rarely seen stateside due to import laws?

  • September 23, 2015 8:55am

    Ah yes, love the sound of this one, David. Mirabelles are hard to find commercially here in Australia… fortunately I have a friend who is an orchardist and grows old fashioned varieties. I made a mirabelle plum sauce, recipe is on my website if you are interesting. Saving this now for when the plums are ripe here. xx

  • Tammy
    September 23, 2015 12:40pm

    I was in Paris last September, and was in a green grocer, buying some fruit, when I saw these little beauties, I had never seen them before, as we do not have them in Australia (not that I’ve ever seen), so I asked the vendor what they were, and he told me mirabelles, and handed me one to try! Delicious!

  • September 23, 2015 3:20pm

    I thought I had won the Lotto when I discovered that the tree in the neighbour’s garden was a Mirabelle tree! It’s a heavy cropper too, so we have an abundance of these little yellow gems every year… except this one when said Lithuanian neighbours pruned the tree rather too enthusiastically in the late winter… sigh. I do still have jam that I made from the previous crop though. They also work beautifully in clafoutis BTW. Love the brownie story – she deserved a little laceration for her rudeness! Thanks for linking to my recipe :)

  • September 23, 2015 6:09pm

    The consistency and color on this is just gorgeous! And interesting note to keep the skin on, sounds good to me :)

  • alice johnson
    September 23, 2015 8:42pm

    Dear David, I bought a mirabelle a few years ago from Raintree Nursery in WA and got lots of little plums the second year and thereafter. They have always been ripe at the beginning of July here outside of San Francisco on the penninsula. My friend who grew up in Alsace Lorraine during WII said they were the first plums ready and much looked forward to, and made the best jam! I’m so glad to have your recipe. Thanks!

  • veda
    September 23, 2015 9:32pm

    Mirabelle plums have been available for the last 2 weeks at the Locust Grove stand at Union Square, NYC on Wed. and Sat. They also have damson plums which are great for jam as well.

  • September 23, 2015 11:41pm

    I recently read that due to strict importing laws mirabelles aren’t allowed into the U.S.
    I’ve had plums similar to the mirabelle here in San Francisco, perhaps a hybrid of sorts?

  • Christopher
    September 27, 2015 1:23pm

    At our Farmer’s Market in south London yesterday there were the yellow mirabelles, scarlet ones which tasted exactly the same, greengages, plums and damsons – real autumn abundance, all from Kent. I bought two pounds of the yellow ones and made this marvellous jam; the raw fruit gives no clue to the deliciousness when cooked. I doubled the quantities and ended up with a jar and a half of a fairly normally set jam – maybe I didn’t use enough water.

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