Italian Prune Preserves


Once upon a time, Santa Clara County was the largest fruit district in California.

In 1919, 98,152 acres were planted in fruit trees. The majority were prune trees (7,652,000), next was apricot (665,000), peaches came in third (482,000) and 385,000 were cherries. Not surprisingly, the county was also the largest canning and packing district in the state.

In may seem difficult to imagine, but this valley, now known as Silicon Valley, the hub of high-tech innovation and development, was once called the prune center of America. More prunes were grown in this valley than were produced in the entire United States.

I grew up in this area and have fond memories of carefree days in a prune orchard that went up and down the street (Winchester Blvd.) as far as the eye could see. My friends and I picked our fair share of this egg-shaped, blueberry-colored fruit. I don’t recall this being a juicy sweet snack, rather a firm, tart bite. The outside of the Italian prune plum has a blueish, powdery “bloom,” which is a natural protective film. This epicuticular wax or bloom is also found on apples and grapes and is easily rubbed off.

This simple recipe contains only fruit, sugar and lemon, does not require any special canning equipment or jars and is easy to make. The only thing that would make it any better is if you gathered up a few friends, rode your bicycles to the nearest orchard (giggling all the way) and picked the fruit yourselves.

You may also enjoy: Torta di Prugna.



  • 2 pounds Italian prune plums
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 lemon (juice and zest)
  1. Rinse prunes, cut in half, lengthwise, then remove the pits.
  2. Cut each half into thirds (lengthwise), place in large saucepan.
  3. Pour the sugar over the prunes, gently stir.
  4. Zest the lemon, (1/2 teaspoon) add to prunes, juice the lemon, add to prunes.
    Stir occasionally, let stand 45 minutes.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil, stir for 2 minutes.  Reduce heat, cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (It will thicken enough to lightly coat a spoon).
  6. Spoon the preserves into clean jars (fills 3 half-pint jars).  Cool to room temperature, screw on the lids, store in refrigerator. Keeps 3-4 months.
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