How to Make Your Own Prunes

Do you have a surplus of plums and need something tasty to do with them?  Learn to make your own prunes for stewing, cakes, baby food, healthy snacks to enjoy throughout the year!

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Why Make Your Own Prunes?

Rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and even protein, prunes are a healthy snack for both you and your kids.  Learning to make your own prunes isn’t difficult – even the kids can help with it.  If you happen to have plum trees, you may enjoy bumper crops that you’re hard pressed to use up.

After all how many raw plums and batches of plum jam can a person eat?!  Well, a lot really, since both are tasty, but even so….

In seven easy steps you can preserve those plums by learning to make your own prunes! Having freshly preserved fruits and veggies in your food storage can really give you a nutritional boost throughout the year.  They’re also a tasty break from rice and beans, beans and rice, rice and beans – am I right?

Damson-type plums make the best prunes because they’re dry and their taste is just divine, sweet with just a tiny tang.  However, you can use any plum you have on hand and in a few easy steps, you’ll have a big batch of healthy, delicious prunes.  Don’t let the harvest pass you by – make your own prunes!

How to Make Your Own Prunes

  1. Make sure you have a good crew of helpers on hand!  Seriously, this is so easy that your kids can help you – make some memories with this DIY task.
  2. Prepare your dehydrator by making sure your rack are clean and ready to go.  If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can also use your oven on its lowest setting.  Be sure to prepare your baking sheets with parchment paper or a very light coating of quality oil.  A solar oven can also be used for making prunes if it is properly vented.  Clean the solar oven thoroughly (why is my solar oven always so filthy?!) and prepare baking sheets accordingly.
  3. Use only ripe, firm plums.  Italian prune plums are best because their water content is lower than others, but you could try this with any plum.  Wash them off lightly and get out the cutting board and a good knife.
  4. Slice each plum in half, removing the pit.
  5. Place your thumb in the back of one half of plum (on the outside) and push firmly, making the plum half invert.  This helps them dry quicker (a trick I learned from a wise neighbor).Invert the plum for dehydrating into prunes
  6. Place each inverted plum half backside down on your racks or cookie sheets.  Fill each rack fully without overlapping the plums or allowing them to touch.
  7. Dehydrate – see tips below

Tips for Making Your Own Prunes

  • I make sure to dry my prunes only until the water leaves their skins and fleshy parts since I like my prunes to stay chewy.  This usually takes 8-12 hours where I live using the electric dehydrator.  These can be preserved at a “raw foods” setting in your dehydrator, if you’d prefer.  (The oven and solar oven are not flexible with temperatures, FYI.)
  • As I said, you can dehydrate these in your oven, too, just set it as low as it will go and be prepared watch them like a hawk.  Over-drying will result in “plum chips” – hmm, that might be good.
  • If you have any concern that your prunes may not be completely dry, store your softer batches in the fridge and eat them inside a month.  It’s a fine line between still wet and
  • just soft, so do your best to judge and just keep practicing until you get a feel for it.  I encourage you to read the troubleshooting tips in Shelle Wells’s fine book, Prepper’s Dehydrator Handbook

  • You can also vent the lid of your solar oven and dry your prunes in there – here’s a post on how we did that with apples.
  • Store in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place and enjoy throughout the year!

Things to Do With Homemade Prunes

Apart from the obvious, eating them out of hand as a snack or trail food, there are several things you can do to integrate prunes into your diet.

  • Use them as a gentle, natural laxative for you and your kiddos.
  • Purposefully over-dry a batch so that they’re a little crispy and blend them to a powder.  You can then add water to make an easy baby food.  I also sometimes simmer the softer prunes in some filtered water and then pop them into my Vitamix for a spin; this make them a great meal for baby.
  • Chop the prunes and add them to any recipe that calls for raisins or dried cherries.  We enjoyed them immensely in our oatmeal and Healthy Kid’s Trail Mix – click here for that recipe.

What about you?  Are you a fan of prunes?  Or is that food only your grandma eats?  I tell you the older I get…

If you decide prunes aren’t your thing, try this post to learn How To Make Your Own Raisins!

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35 thoughts on “How to Make Your Own Prunes

  1. Thanks for this post – I love both prunes and fresh plums! I would like to grow plums, but aren’t they susceptible to a lot of pests? Have you been able to grow them without pesticides? I’ve tried nectarine trees and they were hit severely with a fungal infection. That’s when we dug them up and planted hazelnuts in their spot. So far, no problems with the nuts. I’ll have to look into plum pests and see if they would do well here.

    1. Where do you live, Janet? My climate is dry (so few fungus issues) and cold in the winter (wipes out a lot of bugs), so its not much of a hassle to grow organic. If you live in a humid climate, just make sure you prune well every year to keep the air circulation high inside your trees. If you have a lot of bug problems, consider running chickens in your orchard area, especially in the early spring (when many bugs emerge from underground) and in the fall (when many bugs go in ground). There are several organic controls you can spray in your orchard, although this can get cost prohibitive if your orchard is large.

  2. I pulled some plums out of the freezer just last week and turned them into a sweet and spicy sauce for Chinese food. They were tart Italian plums from a girlfriend’s tree and I waterbathed two jars to give to her as part of her upcoming birthday present. in the fall I foraged a smaller sweeter tree down the road and turned those into plum conserve that is yummy with cheese and warm biscuits. Neither is freestone and I imagine if I tried to pit them for drying they’d get awfully mangled.

  3. Love your idea of making your own prunes. It certainly is a lot healthier doing it yourself than buying them from a grocery store. Thanks for sharing. I am pinnng and shared on google. Visiting from Real Food Friday & co-host.

  4. I would love to be able to do this, good for you to have inherited some fruit trees. When we were looking for a house that is one thing I wanted, but we got an acre instead. Thanks for sharing again on Real Food Fridays, I enjoy your posts, following on Pintrest.

  5. We love prunes! Our pantry always has a box or two. Kids love it as well. But we found that it can be pretty expensive to keep buying from the grocery so we decided to make them ourselves. We got a food dehydrator and started work. It’s fun and we never ran out of prunes ever since.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. So easy to do, Anna, and the thing I like about plum trees is that they grow! Some fruits can be so fussy but, in my experience, plums are relatively low maintenance.

  6. I love prunes! Especially the chocolate covered ones. 😀 We planted a french plum tree a few years ago. Haven’t had a harvest yet, but waiting for the day we do! I didn’t know that some of them are freestone and I am not sure which my tree is. Thanks for the tutorial!

    1. Fruit trees are an investment in time but it should be so worth it! Freestones rock and I hope that’s what you ended up with but, if not, no biggie. You’re savvy.

  7. Those are Italian Prune Plums. We have one too. They also make excellent jam and plum kutchen.

    Thanks for the tip on inverting them- in all the years I never have done that trick.

  8. Thanks so much for your instructions to make prunes. I planted my trees four years ago and am finally reaping the benefits. My plums are completely organic and very ugly. But they taste awesome! I have such a good yield this year that I have to dry some, can some and maybe freeze some. Good eats!

    1. Bwahaha! Yes, Susan, completely ugly is sometimes the trade-off for all our organic practices some years. BUT, taste makes it all worth it. So glad you found the article useful!

      Are you canning whole plums or making jam? I’ve been thinking of canning spiced plums for crumbles and coffee cakes since none of us really like plum jam. What do you think?

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Wolf! To which two books do you refer? Are you wanting a sample from The Do It Yourself Homestead? We’d be happy to send that your way, if that’s what you’re wanting. Just clarify for me and I’ll send that to your inbox.

      Thanks so much!

    1. Very good question, Nancy! You can technically make prunes from any plum, but the best are the dry, rather oblong, dark purple plums – if you can find them. These are the Damson types. Here’s a pretty good breakdown of some typical plums you’ll find at the grocery store. A farmer’s market might be a good place to find different types of plum than the juicy red and black ones from the store. However, like I said, try making prunes from whatever plums you can find and see how it goes.

  9. Another question. Silly one. I want to dehydrate plums, but they become basically prunes. My idea of prunes is something you use when Constitpated. Am I wrong?

    1. Not a silly question at all! Yes, people often use prunes to help keep their gut regulated – though, there are a lot of ways to do that. They’re a very effective but mild help for a baby’s digestion, in particular.

      However, prunes can also be used in baked goods and even savory meat dishes and gravies. Anything you might use a dried cherry or cranberry in would taste lovely with chopped prunes, as well. Here are some ideas to get you started. Hope that helps!

  10. We have a few Red Plum trees (30+ years old) and depending on the weather, we may or may not have a bumper crop. When we do have a good one, we make jam and freeze the remaining for later use in jams, preserves, and muffins. We can only jam and freeze so much, so drying them into Prunes is a great idea. My question is after drying, can you vacuum-seal them and store them in the cupboard? Refrigerator? Freezer?? Thank you.

    1. Great questions, Roy! Yes, you can vacuum seal them, which will prolong their shelf life. Be sure to check that they’re completely dry before you seal them, though. A little trick I learned from my friend Shelle, master food preserver at Rockin W Homestead, is to put your dehydrated items into a glass jar with a lid. If you get condensation on the jar, they’re not dehydrated enough and need to be processed a bit more.

      General rule of thumb is a year for storing dried fruits and veggies, however I’ve had prunes last beyond five years with no discernible flavor difference. They will start to lose nutritional value as they age, though.

      Was that helpful? More questions? Just holler – I wish you a great crop!

  11. I will definitely try this one! I really want to make my own prunes. The store is so far here and and its better if I make it myself. Thank you so much for sharing!

  12. I’ve just followed these instructions, and made some amazing homemade prunes! Thank you! I was so surprised when they went from that beautiful purple to black as they dried.

    My question is, how do I make them ‘stickier’ like the ones you buy in the supermarket? Any advice would be great!

    1. So glad you enjoyed your dried plums! They really are so tasty. Sometimes we dried them in cut pieces and use them instead of raisins.

      With home-dehydrating equipment it will be a little more difficult to get the same consistency as a commercially dehydrated plum. If you want them softer, check them more often as they are drying. Stop the dehydrating process before the prunes become brittle. Here’s the trick, though – they need to be completely dehydrated so they won’t spoil. To check for residual humidity, put the prunes into a glass jar with a lid. Watch for any condensation on the jar; if there’s condensation, the prunes aren’t dehydrated enough. If you’re still not sure, put them in the refrigerator and eat them within the month.

      If it’s a stickier feel you want for your prunes, you can soak them in apple juice before you dehydrate them and that might get you the feel you’re after.

      The best thing to do is to just keep practicing. I dehydrated several batches of apricots one year as I learned what my family liked and what we would use them for – I think it was something like ten batches! You’ll get better each time you do it and, with food, practice means you eat well. 🙂

  13. My kids will be so curious when they hear about this. We have not tried making our own prunes so they will surely have fun with me while making this. Thank you for sharing!

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