Our cantelope vines grew too close to the cucumbers this summer, cross-pollinated, and produced beautifully gorgeous, salmon colored, bland tasting melons. There’s just no other way to describe them.
In spite of critters stealing some during the nights, we still brought in lots and lots of melons that really weren’t worth a flip. We didn’t want to just throw them away, so as we harvested them we chunked the flesh and froze them for fruit smoothies. But then, the smoothies tasted bland, even though we added blueberries, bananas, or anything else we could scare up, so we began thinking we may have saved the melons for nothing.
Then one day my husband heard a horticulturist on the radio speak of cantelope preserves and suggested that I try making some. I “googled” for a recipe and found so many that I simply struck out on my own, armed with ideas for turning our cantelopes into something useable. I thawed several packages (about six pounds) of melon chunks, added about a dozen peeled lemons and oranges, threw in some crushed pineapple, scoured my pantry for anything else about the same color to enhance the flavor with and found a can of apricot nectar, so added that. I ran everything through my food chopper (not the blender, because I didn’t want puree but small chunks of fruit.) The recipes that I’d found on the internet sounded very similar to the recipe for fig preserves, which calls for the same amount of sugar as fruit, but I had a dishpanful of cantelope and fruit and there was no way I wanted to dump in that much sugar. So, you know me, I began to add sugar a little at a time, tasted it, added bottled lemon juice to spike up the flavor, more sugar, more lemon juice, sugar, lemon juice, sugar – until it tasted like a little bit of heaven in a bowl. Then I covered the dishpan, set it in the frig and left it there for several days until I had time to process it.
1. Cook preserves about 2 hours or until the mixture reaches the consistency you like. (Try it on crackers or hot, buttered toast to check it. It takes lots of checking – until you run out of crackers and toast. )
2. Wash jelly jars or canning jars and heat canning lids in hot, boiling water. Fill jars to within 1/2″ from the top, wipe tops of jars and place a canning lid on top. Screw on the rings.
3. Place jars in canner. Fill with water to about an inch over the tops of the jars. Heat to a simmer and keep watching the heat so it doesn’t boil. Simmer about 20 minutes.
4. Lift jars from the canner and place on a towel to dry and cool completely. Let stand undisturbed 24 hours before moving them to your pantry. (I don’t know if that’s really necessary, but its how my mother and grandmothers did, so you know – ……can’t break tradition.)
These cantelope preserves taste very similar to fig preserves. I’m guessing its the flavor of heaven in a jar. Or, on second thought, could be cooked sugar.