Food & Drink

Have a source for Sand Plums? Gather up as many as you can and make this jelly

Strain boiled sand plums to make juice for your jelly.
Strain boiled sand plums to make juice for your jelly. Adriene Rathbun

Have you had Sand Plum Jelly? Most people you ask this question will have a memory of a grandma making it. Apparently, it’s a nostalgic jelly that people really enjoy. Its color is a vibrant reddish pink, and its flavor is sweet and tart – just how I prefer jelly.

While walking in the Crowne Heights Fourth of July parade, we ran into some good friends who enthusiastically told us they’d been picking sand plums. Terra said they picked so many she didn’t know what to do with all of them. She offered some to us, so I quickly said yes, even though jelly making isn’t something I do frequently.

I remember making friends with a gentleman who sent me some sand plum jelly about 10 years ago. He told me all about how the bushes don’t yield fruit every year, how he used to drive the country roads searching for them and finally decided to just plant 400 of the bushes himself. That’s a serious sand plum operation.

Terra kindly delivered a five-gallon bucket of sand plums to my back door later that day. And I quickly texted my husband’s paralegal, Karin, because I knew I needed to share these and because I knew she’d have a good recipe to make the jelly. The week was busy, and we finally took the time one evening to make the jelly. It takes about 2.5 hours total, so start the project a bit earlier than we foolishly did at 8 p.m.

Apparently, if you can find a source for sand plums, you should pick all you can get your hands on. Both the fruit and the juice are freezable, so you can enjoy this tasty jelly year round and make fresh batches when you like. My husband says the jelly should be enjoyed over a hot biscuit, but my sand plum friend told me that it’s great on french toast, PB&J and just plain old toast, too.

Adriene Rathbun is an enthusiastic Wichita cook who offers cooking classes through her business, Social. Reach her at or

Sand Plum Jelly


1 gallon sand plums, well washed, leaves removed and any rotten fruit removed

2 cups water


6 cups sand plum juice

6 tablespoons real fruit pectin

6 cups sugar

8 half-pint canning jars, lids and rings

To make the sand plum juice, place sand plums and water into a large stock pot over medium-high heat bringing to a boil. Lower to medium and cook plums for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Using a fine-mesh strainer, with a large stainless bowl below, strain the juice, avoiding smashing the fruit to keep the jelly clear.

To make the jelly, sterilize the half-pint jars according to the standard canning procedures.

Pour 6 cups of sand plum juice into stock pot. Mix in real fruit pectin. Over medium-high heat, bring juice and pectin to a rolling boil while stirring. Add sugar and return to a boil for one minute.

Carefully pour jelly into hot sterilized jars, cover with lids and screw on bands. Process jars in a hot water bath for five minutes, according to standard canning procedures. Remove them from the water bath and set on the counter to cool. Check seals after 24 hours. Store any jars that didn’t seal properly in the refrigerator.