I’ve been Ferbered again. It happened like this; Gloria announced the July Can Jam ingredient of the month: curcubits. (Curcurbits, curcurbits.. it’s just fun to say!) So, I was perusing my various preserving books for recipes using zucchini or summer squash (marrow, to Gloria and the rest of Europe, and South Africa, incidentally), cucumbers or melon. And I bookmarked a few fancy-sounding and lovely melon preserve recipes in Mes Confitures. Coincidentally, I arrived late in the day to my Saturday farmer’s market, and Regan of Madura Farms kindly offered to sell me the last two very ripe melons (a honeydew and a cantaloupe) of the day for $4. How could I refuse?
So I had a couple of melons that needed to be used up as soon as possible, and a few lovely and tempting Ferber melon preserve recipes. Those of you who have been following along at home know about my beef with Mme Ferber’s seminal jam manual, but again, the flavor combinations seduced me and I forgot to think about canning safety. I proceeded merrily along with the recipe, macerating in sugar & syrup, zesting lemon and orange, boiling the syrup and making the jam. As I was preparing to can, I thought “I’d better check on the acidity of melon.” The answer? Hardly acidic at all. Melons are nearly neutral, with an average pH of 6.0 – 6.7. According to this paper, a 1/4 cup of lemon juice will safely acidify a full pint jar, or 300 grams, of onions or peppers: I used 1 and 1/2 lbs, or about 850 grams, of nearly neutral pH honeydew melon. Even with the addition of the zest, I don’t see any way that my recipe can be safely acidic for water bath canning. I’ll be storing it in the fridge. (Granted, I did eliminate the green apple jelly from the original version, and used slightly less lemon juice).
The upside is that the jam is really delicious. It’s just the tiniest bit too sweet for me, but the citrus, melon and subtle forsythia flavors work very well together. Tai had a PB-and-melon-jam sandwich for lunch today and hasn’t stopped raving. At least it won’t spend too much time taking up fridge real estate. Given the lack of water-bath canning and the refrigerated storage, I can’t recommend this recipe for the July Can Jam; but if you have a melon kicking around that needs using, this small batch jam is worth a try.
Adapated from Melon in Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber
Honeydew Melon Jam with Forsythia & Citrus
- 1 small (1 and 3/4 lb) honeydew melon, seeds & skin removed, diced to 1/4-inch cubes (yield 1 and 1/2 lbs)
- 1 cup Forsythia Syrup
- 1/2 cup sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
- sea salt
- 1 lemon, preferably organic, juice & zest
- 1 orange, preferably organic, zest
- 1/2 box (7/8 oz) low/no-sugar pectin (I used Ball)
- Day 1. Peel lemon zest in long strips with a vegetable peeler. Store, wrapped in plastic wrap, refrigerated overnight. Juice the lemon.
- Add diced melon, forsythia syrup, sugar, a large pinch of salt and lemon juice (1/4 cup) to a medium glass or ceramic bowl. Allow fruit to macerate for 1 hour. Transfer fruit mixture to a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over high heat. Return to bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Day 2. Peel orange zest in a similar manner to the lemon (reserve orange, wrapped, for another use). In a small saucepan, boil the orange and lemon zest in about 1 inch of water, with a pinch of salt added, for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. Julienne the zest strips to matchsticks about 2 inches long.
- Transfer melon/sugar mixture to a large sieve; lightly press on melon pieces to drain juice. (At this point, measure liquid and adjust amount of pectin needed accordingly; 1 box of Ball pectin will set 4 cups of juice; I yielded about 2 and 1/2 cups liquid). Transfer liquid to a medium stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Stirring occasionally, heat liquid until it thickens, becomes syrupy, and reaches 220 degrees F (I was impatient and added my pectin at 216 degrees F), about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, sterilize your jars (I heated mine for 10 minutes in a 225 degree F oven), heat lids, and set up your canning station. Or, skip this step and use the refrigerated jam within 3 weeks.
- Add pectin to boiling syrup; whisk quickly to dissolve (syrup will foam). Boil for 1 minute; add drained melon and citrus zest to the syrup (along with any additional drained juices). Bring back to a boil, and continue to boil over high heat until the temperature reaches 220 degrees F, or the jam thickens, the foam subsides, and the jam when stirred spits and leaves a clean stripe across the bottom of the pan (about 218 degrees F for this batch). Remove from heat and quickly fill and seal jars. Either allow to rest at room temperature, undisturbed, until sealed, or process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath to effect a seal (sealed jars will keep longer in the refrigerator).
Yields approximately 2 and 1/2 cups.
- Not everyone has Forsythia Syrup in the pantry; you could substitute lavendar, lilac or wisteria syrup, or simply use 1 cup of granulated sugar in place of the syrup.
- Mme Ferber’s original recipe calls for: 2 and 1/4 lb (net) melon, juice of 2 small lemons, 2 and 3/4 cup sugar, 2 vanilla beans, 7 oz of Green Apple Jelly and the zest from 1 lemon and 1 orange. My version is likely more citrusy, but using the zest of 1/2 a lemon and 1/2 an orange seemed a bit silly. I used powdered fruit pectin rather than apple juice concentration or Apple Pectin Stock because the forsythia flavor is quite delicate and I did not want apple flavor to compete.
- The addition of the apple jelly and additional lemon juice might just make the original recipe safely acidic, but it rides very close to the line for me. If I made the original version, I would still store it in the refrigerator.
- The texture of this jam is somewhat soft, but it is definitely a jam, not a preserve. It is spreadable, albeit chunky, but not pourable. Adjust the amount of pectin to suit your tastes; less should yield a soft preserve of fruit in syrup, more will yield a stiffer jam, similar in texture to a marmalade.
Refrigerated; storing in sterilized jars will extend safe refrigerated storage to several weeks.
Melons are available in the northeast all summer and into early Fall.