Recipe: Watermelon Jam

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Imagine living in a place that has a National Holiday called “Melon Day.”  You could be surrounded by more than 400 kinds of melon, including some 50 varieties of watermelon.*

Bazaar in Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan. Photo by Peretz Partensky.

Bazaar in Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan. Photo by Peretz Partensky.

The cool, sweet flesh would fill your belly and spirit.

Eating it would definitely make you smile.

Turkmen woman. Photo by yaluker.

Turkmen woman. Photo by yaluker.

And spreading it on bread?

Even better.

If any of this appeals to you, you might want to consider moving to Turkmenistan.

These lovely people have celebrated Melon Day since 1994, and they don’t plan to stop eating the sweetness anytime soon.

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When I read in The World Cookbook for Students that Watermelon Jam is a thing in Turkmenistan (particularly when served on toast with tea), I knew we had to try it.

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I made a nice batch of jam from half a regular watermelon.

Tastes like jarred sunshine.

What a great gift to share with friends and family!

Perhaps with a spot of tea…

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NOTE: I used Pamona’s Universal Pectin because it allows me to add less sugar to the mix (just 2 cups). I found Pamona’s at Whole Foods, though Williams Sonoma also sells it online. If you can’t find Pamona’s Universal Pectin, no worries. Simply buy whatever pectin you can and follow their instructions for making jam from 8 cups of pureed fruit. They’ll have a chart that will tell you how much of their pectin to add (plus how much sugar they require). Generally, it’s 2 packets of pectin and 4 cups sugar. Note that if you use regular pectin, you won’t need the calcium powder)

There’s a lot of science in jam making, but don’t let your grocers limitations keep you from trying this recipe. It’s basically boil-and-go.

Makes about 10 cups.

Ingredients:

10, 8 ounce canning jars

8 cups pureed seedless watermelon (about 1/2 a medium watermelon)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
2 Tbsp Pomona’s Universal Pectin powder
1 Tbsp calcium water (measured from 1/2 tsp Pomona’s calcium powder mixed with 1/2 cup water – the calcium powder is provided in the box as well)

Method:

First things first:

Sterilize your jars either by boiling them in a pot on the stove or running them through the sterilize cycle of your dishwasher.

Do a little dance while they get cleaned.

Leave them in the pot or dishwasher until needed, so they stay as clean as possible.

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Next, stir the pectin powder into the sugar. This will keep it from clumping when you add it to the liquid.  If you’re using Pamona’s, also make the calcium and water mixture. Set both mixtures aside.

Now for the fun!

We’re going to puree the watermelon. You have three options for this.
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a) If you have an immersion blender, scoop about half the flesh of a medium watermelon into a large bowl.  Pulse away, then scoop out any of those little white seeds that may remain. Measure and make sure you have 8 cups.

b) If you have a regular blender, blend in batches. Again, scoop out any of the little white seeds and measure.

c) Mash it by hand. Remove seeds and measure.

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3. Next, add the watermelon, lemon juice, and calcium mixture to a wide, deep pot. Bring to a boil. Stir occasionally.

Add in the sugar mixture, stir, and boil for about 2 minutes.

NOTE: Keep a close eye on the pot; temperatures can take a while to heat up, but then can change very quickly. Also, the watermelon will foam somewhat. Stirring will help keep that at bay.

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4. Ladle watermelon jam into sterile jars and seal with lids.  The jars should still be warm from the dishwasher; this will help prevent cracking.

5. Cook the Jam

OPTION A)  Place sealed jars into clean pots. Completely cover with boiling water (an inch above the tallest jar is best). Boil about 10 minutes. TIP: For this method, I found it easiest and safest to place the pot on the stove, then use a pitcher to fill it with boiling water. No need to carry a heavy, sloshing pot across the kitchen.

OPTION B) Fill the pot with water, bring to a boil, then add the filled, sealed jars of jam. Make sure they are submerged, then boil 10 minutes. This is the traditional method.

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5. Let cool, remove from water, then test the seals by unscrewing the ring part of the cover and gently lift the remaining flat part of the lid. If the seal holds, these jars can be stored for a year.  If a seal doesn’t hold, refrigerate and enjoy within three weeks…

…Perhaps with a dusty, dreamy sort of view.

The remains of the fortress of Nisa, an ancient parthian capital, now in Turkmenistan. Photo by David Stanley.

The remains of the fortress of Nisa, an ancient parthian capital, now in Turkmenistan. Photo by David Stanley.

Please Note: This jam will be runny until refrigerated.

*Numbers from Turkmenistan by Paul Brummel.

Have you ever made jam or jelly? What do you think of the process? Does it seem doable? While I’ve made chutney before, this was my first time to make a real jam. 

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Comments

  1. Janet Goodell says:

    Yes, I have TRIED to make jam, well jelly, before. It stayed runny. I used wild chokecherries picked locally. Be aware jellies and jams that do not thicken make great syrup. You can just think, “I meant to do that.” Of course, then you need to have pancakes (or ice cream) for tea! Thanks for the twist on jam–never had watermelon before.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Did you refrigerate it? This will stay runny, too, until refrigerated.

      As for the syrup: great tip! Watermelon would be really interesting on crepes!

  2. i really really want to make it..but i do i/must i/ need calcium powder? what does it add to the jam?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Nope – It’s only needed if you use the Pomona’s … it ensures the pectin can set with the lower quantities of sugar. :)

      • Thank you Sasha. I can’t get over the cuteness of the jar itself(is it bad that its propelling me to make a jam?)Ok.so it means if i am not using Pomona and regular supermarket pectin,i am using more sugar to make it set right?I would prefer less sugar though.

  3. Celeste Childress says:

    I have made strawberry jam – once – and was shocked by how much sugar was required. Watermelon is almost my favorite food, so I’m sure to try your jam recipe – with the Pomona pectin. It should be wonderful to distribute at Christmas.

  4. Hi Sasha, I enjoyed reading your post — nicely done and nicely written. I have one tip for you in regard to the water bath processing. Ideally, you would have the water in the water bath canner already boiling at the time you are filling the jars with the jam. What we do is fill a jar (outside of the canner), put the lid on, and set it aside until all the jars are ready. Then we add them all together to the boiling water in the canner. As soon as the water gets back to a rolling boil, set the timer for the proper processing time. The reason for this is that if the pectin is exposed to heat for too long, it will break down and won’t be able to jell the jam.

    For cooked jam, it should be jelled when the jars are completely cool — 12 to 24 hours. Normally cooked jam doesn’t require refrigeration in order to jell.

    If you have any questions about Pomona’s or processing, please don’t hesitate to give us a call or send an email.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Mary Lou – so nice to hear from you! I didn’t realize the water had to already at a boil when the jars are added. Do you think it would be fine if I did it as above, but boiling water was added to the pots instead of room temperature? Or is that making it more complicated than it has to be?

      • I’m guessing the reason you want to fill the jars in the pot and add water is because you don’t have a jar lifter? I’m not sure why you would do it that way otherwise . . .?

        The issue is getting the water in the pot back to a rolling boil quickly so that the pectin doesn’t cook for too long in the jars. You don’t want to expose the pectin to hot temperature more than 15 to 20 minutes max.

        Jar lifters are a great help in canning!

  5. Janet Goodell says:

    I made my jam this morning! It is the prettiest jam I have ever seen. I am crossing my fingers it sets (in the frig). Runny or not, I will be serving some Sunday for tea with Turkmen bread, no less. http://www.turkmenkitchen.com/en/turkmen-bread/

  6. I used 4 cups of watermelon and 1 quart of strawberries and made the most delicious jam I have ever had in my life..ii thickened great with 1 package of pectin and 6 cups of sugar. Grandkids love it!

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