I have been very excited all summer as I have a self-sown honeydew melon growing in my vegie patch. When setting up my vegie patch, I added some compost from Perth. Clearly, a honeydew seed came along for the ride.
At first, I didn’t know what it was. I looked after it hoping it would turn out to be a pumpkin but, as it started fruiting, I realised it was going to be a melon. The only melon I buy is honeydew, so honeydew was most likely.
The trouble was, I didn’t know when to pick them. I looked up as many sites as I could. They advise to pick the melons when they smell of melon, when the base becomes soft and when the fruit comes away from the stem. Well, my melons never did any of those. I willed them to smell of ripe melon but they never did. When I eventually picked them, they tasted over-ripe. Damn it.
I have been thinking of my melons for a while as I knew when I did eventually pick them, there would be no way we could eat all nine. I settled on melon and ginger jam.
I find jam very tricky – it is all about pectin levels. If you are a novice jam maker, it is good to know the pectin level of the fruit you are using. Citrus fruit, especially lemons, and quinces are high in pectin and will, usually, set without added pectin. Other fruits usually need an added source of pectin to set. A lot of recipes will mix high pectin fruit with low pectin fruit to aid setting.
You also need to know that for commercial pectin to work, you need 55% sugar so always work on equal quantities of fruit to sugar.
Some very good advice I have learned the hard way is: if your jam has not set by the maximum amount of cooking time recommended by the recipe, do not keep boiling. If you do, you will end up with either toffee or a very badly burnt pot, or both. If your jam hasn’t set, take it off the heat, add more pectin, put it back on the heat, boil for 5 minutes then test again. If it hasn’t set, add more pectin. Keep doing this until it sets. This is how I made this jam. I knew the melons would be low in pectin and, therefore, added pectin would be called for but I didn’t know how much. I started off with 100g of Jamsetta. Because it hadn’t set after 10 minutes of hard boil, I took it off the heat, added another packet of Jamsetta and boiled it for an additional 10 minutes. It still wasn’t set then, so I added another packet. I tested it after 5 minutes and jackpot! .
If in doubt, a good way to test for pectin is to simmer your fruit until soft and then put one teaspoon into a jar. When it is cool, add 3 teaspoons of methylated spirit and give it a swirl. If, after one minute or so, you have a large firm clump of jelly, your fruit is high in pectin and your jam will set without added pectin. If you have two or three small clumps, your fruit has medium pectin (you may get away with adding lemon juice) and if you have lots of little clumps or no clumps at all, your fruit is low in pectin and you will definitely need an additional source of pectin.
This jam tastes seriously good. The three flavours work really well together. Feel free to halve or third the recipe. I made 15 smallish jars.
- 3 kgs of honeydew melon flesh (Weigh the melon after peeling and removing the seeds. I used 3 medium-sized honeydews.)
- 3 kgs sugar
- 200 mls lemon juice
- rind of lemons used to make juice, finely grated
- 450g glacéd ginger, cut into very fine strips
- 200g Jamsetta (Jamsetta is an Australian product which is sugar (as a carrier), pectin and citric acid. Balls has a similar product in the US and I am sure there would be an English equivalent.)
- Cut melon into cubes.
- Mix the cubed melons with the sugar in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave overnight.
- The next day, tip the melon, juice and any undissolved sugar into a preserving pan.
- Add the rind, lemon juice and ginger.
- Bring to the boil and simmer gently until the melon looks transparent.
- Take off the heat and add the Jamsetta.
- Raise the heat and boil hard for 5-10 minutes until the jam has set. Begin testing after 5 minutes.
- Let jam cool for about 5 minutes and then pour into hot sterilised jars. Seal immediately.