Subtle seasonings and a full, plummy flavor make this jam one of our all-time Test Kitchen favorites. You'll need cheesecloth as well as half-pint canning jars. This recipe can be either refrigerated for a month or canned and kept for up to a year (for more on canning, go to sunset.com/canning).
5 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pluots, such as Flavor Supreme or Flavor King; or plums, such as Santa Rosa (from 3 lbs., two-thirds soft-ripe, the rest firm-ripe)
3 1/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 bay leaf
2 strips orange zest (each 1 by 1 1/2 in.; use a vegetable peeler)
1/4 vanilla bean pod, split lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter
How to Make It
In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine pluots, sugar, and lemon juice. Cover and let stand until mixture is very soupy and sugar has dissolved, 1 1/2 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally.
Enclose peppercorns, bay leaf, orange zest, and vanilla bean in a 6- by 6-in. square of cheesecloth; tie tight with kitchen twine.
Pour pluot mixture into a 5- to 6-qt. pot and add spice bundle and butter. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, set a small plate in freezer and sterilize jars.
Reduce heat to medium and cook jam at a low boil, stirring occasionally, until jam thickens somewhat and a small spoonful put on a cold plate thickens a bit, 40 to 60 minutes. Discard spice bundle, pressing juices into pot.
Ladle jam into sterilized jars, filling to 1/4 in. from tops of jars. Wipe rims clean. Attach rings and new lids, tightening firmly but not forcing. Process jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes (boil for 10 minutes at altitudes of 1,001 to 6,000 ft., 15 minutes above 6,000 ft.). Or let jars cool, then chill.
Make ahead: Up to 1 year at room temperature, processed, or 1 month, chilled.