If there are still watermelons at your farmer’s market, this one is a keeper. I was intrigued, but a little dubious, about the amount of balsamic vinegar in this recipe, and we all know that I do not have the best luck with jelly. I have to say, however, that this turned out to be quite delicious in addition to being rather beautiful. Tai gave it his patented “This is horrible. Don’t even try it; I’ll suffer and eat it all.”
Despite my (rare) use of commercial pectin here, the half-pint jars are still a leetle wiggly; the 1/4-pint jars seem to be set nicely. Marisa over at Food in Jars recently made a watermelon jelly that took a week to set, so I’m hoping that all of my jars will set up eventually. There is plenty of acid in the recipe (bear in mind that watermelon is a low-acid fruit (pH of 5.2 – 5.6) so you should not take any liberties with the amounts of acid) which generally helps to activate the pectin, as well as more sugar than I usually include, all working to help the liquid watermelon juice achieve a gel. Either way, this is worth a try; as I said it was surprisingly delicious; the balsamic vinegar contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the watermelon, and the gorgeous red-flecked jelly would make an impressive gift (I attribute the red flecks to my rebellious squeezing of the jelly bag; I love when my break-the-rules nature actually pays off!).
Adapted from Zesty Watermelon Jelly in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, J. Kingry & L. Devine, eds.
- 1 personal-sized watermelon (about 5 – 7 lbs)
- 1 tsp dried mint (or 1 tbsp fresh)
- 3/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 6 tbsp lemon juice (bottled for consistency of acidity)
- 1 package regular powdered fruit pectin (I used Ball)
- 3 cups sugar (organic white beet sugar), divided
- large pinch of sea salt
- Wash the melon, slice in half, and scoop out the pink flesh into a large, shallow bowl. (Save the rind for pickles.). With a potato masher, mash the watermelon flesh thoroughly, then transfer to a jelly bag suspended over a large bowl (if your watermelon is seedless, you can skip the mashing; simply puree the flesh in a blender or food processor, then transfer to the jelly bag). Allow to drip undisturbed for about 2 hours (I squeezed the jelly bag on this one; it doesn’t seem to make a difference and my jelly was nice and clear). Reserve watermelon pulp for another use (stay tuned for an easy watermelon sauce recipe!).
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Measure the collected juice (My yield was 6 cups, which I reduced by boiling down to 3 cups). The recipe is based on 3 cups of watermelon juice; if you have more or less, adjust the amounts of lemon juice, balsamic & sugar accordingly. Transfer the juice to a large (at least 6-quart) stockpot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over high heat; add dried mint in a tea infuser or cheesecloth sachet, then continue to boil over high heat until juice is reduced to 3 cups (or, if you are starting with 3 cups, proceed to next step).
- Add the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. In a small bowl, mix powdered pectin with 1/2 cup sugar; add to the stockpot, stirring briskly to dissolve. Add the remaining 2 and 1/2 cups sugar and the pinch salt, stirring to dissolve. Bring back to a boil over high heat (juice will foam up substantially) and continue to boil until the foam thickens a bit and an instant thermometer reads 220 degrees F, about 5 – 10 minutes. Remove mint. Cook at 220 degrees F for 1 minute; turn off heat, skim foam and ladle hot jelly into hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields about 4 and 1/2 cups.
- The Ball recipe called for 1 stalk of lemongrass, added directly to the jelly; I love the idea of lemongrass, but I did not grow any this year, so I substituted mint. I’m not sure the mint really came through; next time I would either skip it, or double the amount.
- The Ball recipe also called for 5 cups of sugar to 2 cups juice, so I should have added 7 and 1/2 cups sugar; blech.
- My jelly was not beautifully pink, even though I opted for white sugar this time. I don’t know why – the vinegar & lemon maybe? It does have these gorgeous specks of bright red watermelon pulp; I attribute this to squeezing of the jelly bag (breaking the law, breaking the law!).
- Watermelon is a low-acid fruit, with a pH of 5.2 – 5.6; make sure you do not alter the proportions of watermelon and acid (vinegar & lemon juice).
- Run the watermelon pulp through a food mill to remove seeds; use it to make granita, leather, or an easy watermelon dessert sauce.
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year. Refrigerated, use within 2 months.