This week’s theme is Summer Salad Recipes & Fruit (Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Honey Dew, etc.) I made Watermelon Jelly, not jam (explanation below)! I’ve never tried canning before, and it was actually fun. I was going to make a summer salad and then changed my mind at the last minute because I already have some summer fruit salads, and I decided to just go with a summer fruit recipe instead, which turned into my first canning experiment.
When we saw 11 watermelons successfully growing on our watermelon vine, we knew that it was time to figure out some ways to preserve them. Yep, that’s the reason. Obviously we love watermelon and plan to eat a lot of it, but when it comes right down to it, even a family of 7 does not need to consume 11 watermelons in the course of a summer. (okay maybe, but still…)
Plus, I figured if I learned how to do some canning/preserving, surely I would be able to grow more next summer and feel confident that we wouldn’t wind up with too much. It was an easy choice for Watermelon Jelly after seeing it at our Farmer’s Market and wanting some ever since.
I had no idea what I would learn in this process, and how much researching would go into it. I’ve always wanted to try canning and this was the time. I asked the lady at the Farmer’s Market about her jelly and she was more than happy to tell me how she made it. Her recipe sounded simple, puree watermelon, strain, add some sugar, lemon juice and liquid pectin and boil to perfection. Wait, how do I know it’s perfect? And thus began my search into learning how to make Watermelon Jelly.
When I googled it, I found loads of recipes that didn’t strain the watermelon, yet the lady told me to. So I was determined to do it her way, and not how I was reading it. Yes, that did require some experimentation but it worked. Also, I wound up using powdered pectin but I had purchased liquid pectin and tried it that way first, because my Farmer’s Market lady told me to.
I also realized that once I strained the fruit, I was truly making a Jelly and not a Jam. There is a difference. What is it?
Jam is made from the pulp of the fruit, Jelly is made from the fruit juice. I did not actually know/realize the difference, because until now, I just didn’t care. I just knew I really loved jelly because of the smooth consistency. I did save the pulp after I strained it though (and a bit of watermelon juice), and we made some delicious drinks which I will post this week. I’m loving watermelon flavored everything and am definitely going to have some fun with all of this. If you want to make watermelon jam, just keep the pulp there. Don’t strain it.
During my research, I came across a blog that had made watermelon jelly and I was both surprised and delighted to find that she had created her Watermelon Jelly for someone else, and I can now say I know that someone else (I knew I was meeting her soon when I made this, so I thought it only fitting). Stef from the Cupcake Project is the someone else. I met her this weekend at Food Media Forum and let me just tell you that it took everything in me not to tell her I had made it when I saw her, met her, talked to her. (she’s awesome!) So nope, she doesn’t know until the pingback hits her blog today and perhaps even then I might need to comment and let her know, and since it’s not her recipe, I’ll also head back to the original blog as well. The biggest reason I didn’t tell Stef I made it, is because I made it Thursday and it said it needed a week to set (it didn’t, but I didn’t know that) and I was seeing her Saturday and if it was a giant fail, I wanted to make it again before I told her. haha Lame, I know.
So the story goes like this, Stef was on a mission to create a watermelon cupcake that tasted like watermelon. Her first cupcake was a fail (though they sure look yummy and they tasted good, just not watermelon flavor) so she turned to her friend Food in a Jar to create a watermelon jelly for her to use in the second batch of cupcakes. Since her cupcakes seemed to be a success, I decided to use this recipe and tweak it a little and make Watermelon Jelly.
Guess what? It worked. We have beautiful jars of Jelly and I cannot wait to get the rest of the watermelon’s grown so we can make more. I made about three half pint jars with one single small watermelon. I am hoping that by the end of the summer we will have tons of jars and be able to use it all winter long and enjoy the sweet taste of summer all winter long.
- 4 cups of watermelon juice
- 4 cups of white sugar
- 7 Tablespoons of lemon juice (bottled is better because you don’t get the extra pulp)
- 2 boxes of SURE-JELL FOR LESS OR NO SUGAR NEEDED RECIPES (the pink box)
- To get your watermelon juice, cut up your watermelon into small chunks and puree in your blender or food processor. I found the blender worked better. Strain the juice out to remove the pulp and the seeds. Save the pulp for another recipe or discard. Do this until you have 4 cups of watermelon juice. You will need to do it in at least 2 batches, maybe three.
- In the widest stock pot you have (see tips for information on this) add the watermelon juice, lemon juice and sugar and blend together. Add the pectin and stir together again.
- Heat to boiling and then allow to boil on the stove until it gets to 220 degrees, a digital thermometer will help here, big time. I stirred the mixture a few times to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. It took me 20 minutes to reach 220, but it can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes to reach this which depends on the size of the pot, the pectin, the temperature outside, etc. In other words, this is all a science, and what works one time, might not work the next. My advice, keep an eye on it. I burned a batch because I answered the phone. Yes, 35 seconds to go across the floor to grab the phone and it burned.
- Once you have reached the desired 220 degrees (please, please use a digital or candy thermometer to do this and then follow the plate test below in the tips to make sure its done).
- Once you have determined its ready, remove from heat and carefully pour it into your jars. (see the tips for some notes on this too!)
- If you didn’t use a canning jar funnel, make sure you wipe the lids well, and then put the lids on. (these jars are hot! Use canning tongs or a thick kitchen towel to handle)
- Quickly clean your big pot out, place the jars in the bottom and fill with hot water covering the jars by over an inch. I had some trouble because one of my jars was only half full and it wanted to bob around in there. I let it, it didn’t hurt anything.
- Put the pot on the stove, heat to boiling again and give it a 10 minute hot water bath.
- After 10 minutes, remove the pot from the stove, CAREFULLY remove the jars from the water (I used a canning basket, so it was fairly easy) and allow the jars to cool enough to handle.
- Remove the rings around the jar and test the seals, make sure they are secure but don’t break the seal. Replace the rings and store for up to a year in a cool, dry place (dark is good too). If any of the seals are broken, use that jar, and enjoy your watermelon jelly. Don’t forget to label the jar, or if you make several kinds you won’t remember what is what. Please make sure and read the extra tips below.
Important Tips on Canning Watermelon Jelly
- You want to use the widest and tallest pot you can find. The reason is, the wider the pot, the better the heat process is for the jelly. You need it to be tall, because you want it to really get boiling, and when it does, it’s going to be creeping up the sides of the pot. Trust me on this. Large stockpot = perfect canning device.
- You’re going to ask me if you can use liquid pectin, and yes you can, but I will tell you that this particular jelly worked beautifully the exact way I made it, listed in the recipe instructions and I have not tried any other way. I have seen complaints that the jelly didn’t set, I’ve seen complaints that it over set. Mine set. With this EXACT recipe. I don’t think it had anything to do with liquid vs. powdered. It was beautiful, spreadable and delicious. I cannot help you if you want to substitute something else or change the recipe in any way. I’m sorry. I am not a canning expert, this was an experiment and it worked for me. We’ve made it several times since and had no problems.
- If instead you’d like a watermelon syrup that is GREAT with waffles, pancakes, ice cream, etc… lower the pectin amount. Use only one box. Yes, we’ve done it and its amazing.
- When you think your mixture is done boiling and ready to be removed, do the plate test. So much easier. Take a small plate or bowl and put it in the freezer at the start of this whole process (at least 15 minutes). When you think your mixture is ready, take a small spoonful and put it on the freezing plate. Give it about a minute or so and test it. If it’s forming a skin or solidifying a bit, it’s ready. If it’s still very runny after a minute, give your jelly a few more minutes on the stove. I used three plates in the freezer just in case it wasn’t done the first time. It was.
- When you are ready to pour the jelly into the jars, I strongly urge you to purchase a canning funnel, I got an entire pack of supplies for about $6 at walmart that came with all sorts of interesting tools – the jar handler (for when it’s hot) and the wide mouth canning funnel were the two I wanted and use the most. When you funnel the liquid into the jar, pour slowly and carefully. You will burn yourself badly if you get any of that liquid on your skin. Once the jar appears full, allow it to sit for a minute. You’ll be surprised by how much it settles and you can add more in. Fill to about a half inch from the top. Each time you pour more liquid in, just give in a minute to settle so you can make sure you completely fill the jar. I didn’t realize how much it would settle, so I figure you might not. So just a tip to make things easier.
- Get yourself a canning basket. They are pretty cheap at Walmart or Target and they make the whole process so much easier! I’m not kidding either.
- I reserve the right to add more tips as I continue to make batches of watermelon jelly 😉
Have you ever made any jelly’s or tried canning? Tell me about your experiences below!