Melons and cucumbers may seem an unlikely pairing, but they’re close cousins in the botanical world. Their muted pastel tones and refreshing complementary flavors come together beautifully in this jam recipe from Portland Farmers Market Cookbook. Amanda Felt of Portland’s Bushel and Peck Bakeshop swears by her cantaloupe jam flecked with aromatic vanilla-bean seeds. You can also go in another direction with this melon jam by substituting honeydew for cantaloupe and fresh mint or jalapeño for vanilla bean. Persian and English cucumbers are too dry for this recipe; stick with the usual garden—also called American slicing—cucumbers.
Using Pomona’s Universal Pectin is an easy way to make jellies, preserves, and jam recipes with less sugar. Before you start the jam, make the calcium water called for in the recipe by combining ¼ teaspoon calcium powder and ¼ cup water in a small bowl or a jar with a lid. This makes enough calcium water for a few batches of jam. You can also use liquid pectin and follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for the ratio of sugar to fruit for adequate thickening.
1 (2 ½- to 3-pound) cantaloupe cut into ½-inch cubes (about 4 ½ cups)
12 ounces cucumbers, peeled, halved, and seeded, then cut into ¼-inch cubes to yield 1 ¼ cups
6 to 8 tablespoons sugar, depending on preference, divided
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out with a paring knife, and pod reserved
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 medium lemon)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons Pomona’s calcium water
1 tablespoon Pomona’s pectin powder
How to Make It
Sterilize your jars, prepare your bands and lids, and have your canning equipment ready.
In a wide, shallow, nonreactive pot, combine the cantaloupe, cucumber, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, the vanilla bean seeds and pod, lemon juice, salt, and calcium water.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and the pectin powder and set it aside.
Bring the fruit mixture to a boil over high heat. Boil uncovered for 1 minute, and then add the pectin-sugar mixture to the fruit in the pot while stirring vigorously; the jam should thicken quickly.
After the jam sets up, continue to cook for 1 minute. Don’t be tempted to boil the jam longer because it looks thin; cooking the jam too long may cause the pectin to break down and your jam not to jell. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar as needed. Remove and discard the vanilla bean pod and pour the jam into the hot, sterilized jars. Process the jars in a water bath for 10 minutes according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Let the jars sit in the water 1 minute and remove. Again, overexposure to heat may cause the pectin to break down, so stick closely to the cooking and boiling times.
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