Melons are not the first fruit that pops into your head when it comes to canning homemade jam. But if you are searching for something unique and delicious this will be the canning project for you. Melon jam is common in France and often served with cheese and crackers or French bread. Sweet, a touch of salt, and a creamy hint of melon. The jam is also studded with gorgeous pink peppercorns which is like icing on a cake!
I use Kiss melons for this jam which have recently begun popping up at local grocery stores. Kiss melons are intensely sweet, fragrant, and the creamy flavor lingers on your tongue. The lovely flavor of these melons are ideal for this jam. If you cannot locate Kiss melons, you can substitute cantaloupe which are the traditional melon used in this French recipe.
The next important component are pink peppercorns. I prefer buying pink peppercorns at Penzeys Spices. Today I visited three stores searching for these little guys. The second store had them, but they looked terrible. Dry, old, and dusty. Penzeys’ peppercorns are firm, glossy, and uniform in size and color. Jam making takes time and effort, it is worth seeking out the very best ingredients.
I like to use small 4 oz jars for this recipe. There are two reasons: First, you only use a little jam at a time for cheese platters, charcuterie boards, bread, etc. A small jar is the perfect portion. Second, this jam is a wonderful, small gift to give for hostesses. You can dress the jars up with some twine and a tag and voilà!
TIP: When making jam, have a few frozen plates in your freezer. This is for the frozen plate test which helps ensure that your jam will set (and not be runny). More information on this test below.
Preservation method: Waterbath canning
Difficulty level: Easy to medium
Yield: 13 4-oz jars, but can vary due to size of melons
You will need clean jars and closures, a boiling-water canner, rack, jar lifter, canning funnel, and wooden skewer
2 Kiss melons (or cantaloupes) peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
1/4 cup kosher salt
4 cups sugar
3/4 cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp pink peppercorns
Place rack in the bottom of a boiling water canner, then place empty jars on the rack. Add water to the jars and the canner until the jars are about two-thirds full. Cover the canner and bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Place lids in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Do not boil. Keep lids hot until ready to use.
Toss together melon chunks and kosher salt in a large bowl.
Cover and let stand at room temperature for two hours. Drain. Rinse well with cold water and drain again.
Stir together melon, sugar, and lemon juice in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Look at the melon pieces. You want the jam to have a little texture and chunk to it, but use a potato masher if needed to break down larger pieces.
Simmer uncovered for about one hour, stirring often to gelling point. I use the frozen plate test. Before beginning the recipe, stash three small plates in your freezer. When you believe that your jam is cooked, grab a plate and place a small amount of jam on the center of the plate. Run a spatula or spoon through the jam. If the line you “drew” stays defined and clear and the jam doesn’t run back into the line your jam is ready. If jam runs back into the line you need to cook it longer.
Skim foam if necessary and stir in the peppercorns.
Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.
Remove air bubbles with wooden skewer and readjust headspace if needed. Wipe jar rims with damp cloth and ensure there is no fruit or gel on the rims of the jars (or the jars may not seal). Apply lids and bands and adjust until fingertip tight. Place jars in boiling water canner.
When all jars are in the canner, adjust the water level in the canner so that it covers the jars by at least one inch. Cover the canner with a lid and bring water to a full rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling hard and continuously, begin counting the processing time of 15 minutes.
Once full time is complete, turn off heat and let jars sit in canner an additional five minutes (this standing time allows the pressure inside the jars to stabilize and reduces the likelihood of liquid loss that could otherwise occur when the jars are removed.)
Remove jars and place on a kitchen towel-lined space. The towel will help reduce the chance of jar breakage. Do not dry the lids or jars at this point. You do not want to disturb the lids while the seals are being formed. Allow jars to cool for 24 hours before removing bands and wiping down jars. Date jars and store in a cool dry place for up to one year.
Recipe from “The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving”