Chinese-style Plum Sauce

Submitted by: Carolyn on June 22, 2010

This is a Chinese-style plum sauce, sometimes called “duck sauce”, but it’s nothing like the sickly-sweet, pinkish-orange stuff you find in little plastic packets at most Chinese restaurants. This one is pungent, fruity — the real thing. Also useful as a sub for chili sauce or a sweet-and-hot chutney.

Adapted from Helen Witty and Elizabeth Schneider Colchie’s absolutely wonderful book, “Better Than Store-Bought: A Cookbook (Authoritative recipes for the foods that most people never knew they could make at home).”

Servings: Makes 4 pints        


3 or 4 medium-to-large sweet red peppers
2-1/2 pounds peaches or apricots, stoned and quartered (weight before
2-1/2 pounds plums (preferably red), stoned and quartered (weight before
5-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar, 5% acidity
2-1/2 cups water
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup light corn syrup (I’ve successfully subbed honey for this)
1/2 cup peeled, chopped fresh ginger
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/4 cup mustard seeds, lightly toasted in a small skillet
1 medium onion, quartered
2 small hot fresh green peppers (about 2 inches long), seeded and diced
-OR- 3 dried hot red peppers (same length), seeds removed, crumbled
6 large cloves garlic, minced
1 stick cinnamon


Roast the sweet red peppers over a flame or under the broiler till the skin is burned almost black. Let stand 5 minutes, then wrap in a plastic bag and let stand for 15 minutes. Quarter lengthwise, scrape off the skin and remove the seeds. Set the peppers aside.

Combine the peaches or apricots, plums, 3 cups of the vinegar, and the water in a large non-reactive kettle and simmer until soft, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In another non-reactive kettle, this one very large, combine the remaining vinegar, sugars, and corn syrup and bring to a boil, stirring. Add the fruit mixture, ginger, salt, mustard seeds, onion, hot peppers, garlic, cinnamon sticks and the skinned sweet peppers. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes, then uncover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring now and then. Remove the cinnamon stick.

Press the mixture through a chinoise or food mill. Return to the kettle and boil gently, stirring, until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes (it will thicken a little more while cooling).

Process in BWB in half-pint (10 minutes) or pint (15 minutes) jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace.

Allow the flavors to meld in the jars for at least 2 weeks, better a month, before serving. This one definitely improves with a month or two of waiting — it’s worth it.

Ads will not print