In a (pineapple and melon) jam

What happens when you partner the ‘King of Fruits’ with a ‘rogue melon’? A delicious marriage of flavour and texture which also craftily extends the expensive, exotic pineapple with the more easily sourced jam melon.

A rogue melon

Just when you were thinking this looks like a succulent watermelon, split it open and it is sadly lacklustre in colour, has a spongy texture and is almost devoid of fragrance or flavour :(.   But in testament to the ‘waste-not-want-not’ philosophy of the Victorian period it served a very useful purpose, earning its common name of ‘jam melon’.

A useful rogue

This particular melon self-seeded outside the animal enclosure at Vaucluse House – probably because our pet ducks, chooks and goats LOVE melons! But it is a surprisingly useful kitchen garden plant, as it cooks amazingly well, maintaining a plumpness and pleasantly chewy texture. It is for this reason it was readily used in jam-making, often as a filler or extender. It absorbs the colour and flavour of any other fruits it has been cooked with making it ideal to use with expensive or hard-to-come-by fruits such as pineapples, or to balance intense flavours such as lemon or ginger.

Citrullus lanatus var. citroides, better known as Red Seeded Citron, originated in South America and, like many ‘New World’ plants, flourished in the colony’s temperate climes. Sometimes they’re called ‘paddy’ melons, and they grow almost wild in paddocks in some rural regions.

A handwritten recipe for pineapple and melon jam, from the Rouse Hill collection.

Handwritten pineapple and melon jam recipe, Rouse Hill House & Farm Collection. Photo Scott Hill © HHT

You don’t find melon jam recipes in the English texts such as Beeton or Acton for example, as  melons were not found in England, but melon jam recipes abound in early Australian cookbooks. Jam melons aren’t commonly found in shops now, but you can substitute honeydew melon if you want to try out the traditional recipes. The hand-scrawled note (it would barely qualify as a recipe) pictured above was wedged into the melon jam pages in one of the family cookbooks at Rouse Hill House, another of HHT’s historic houses.

Jam and rustic bread on the kitchen table at Vaucluse House.

Pineapple and melon jam in the kitchen at Vaucluse House. Photo © James Horan

RELATED: See how the pineapple is also used to decorate a colonial table

Step 1: slicing and deseeding

Step 2: preparing the pineapple

Step 3: reaching setting point

Step 4: bottling the jam

Pineapple and melon jam

Serves Makes about six 300ml jars.

Ingredients

  • 1 large pineapple (approx 1.2 kg)
  • 1 jam melon or honeydew melon (approx 2 kg)
  • 1.8–2kg sugar
  • 3 lemons

Note

Like many jam recipes, the fruit needs to soak overnight before cooking, so it's made over two days. Traditionally made with a jam melon, you can substitute with honey-dew melon. We have also provided tips on how to sterilise glass jars and bottles in a separate 'techniques' post.

Directions

Slicing and deseeding the melon and preparing the pineapple
Peel, core and dice the pineapple, removing and discarding the eyes. Cut the melon in half and discard the seeds. Remove the skin and dice the flesh. Weigh the diced fruit.
Adding the sugar
To work out how much sugar you need, calculate two-thirds of the weight of the fruit. For example, if you have 2.4 kg of diced fruit, you will need 1.6 kg sugar.
Place the diced fruit in a large ceramic bowl. Sprinkle over half the sugar. Cover the bowl with a large plate or cloth and leave overnight.
Cooking the fruit
The next day place the sugared fruit and any liquid it has produced into a large saucepan. Zest and juice the lemons, discarding any seeds, and add to the pan. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the fruit has softened and the green colour has cooked out of the melon. Stir occasionally to ensure the fruit doesn't burn.
Meanwhile, place a small saucer in the freezer, ready for gel or set point testing, and sterilise the jars.
Reaching setting point
Reduce the heat and add the remaining sugar, stirring until it has fully dissolved. Then increase the heat, bring the mixture to a rapid boil and, stirring frequently, cook until the syrup starts to thicken. Ensure the mixture doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn, stirring constantly as the mixture develops and colour deepens. Test for setting point once the syrup seems thick enough to cling to the sides of the pan as the jam is stirred.
Bottling the jam
Once at setting point, remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to rest for 5–10 minutes. Ladle the jam into warm sterilised jars and seal. When the jam has completely cooled, label and date the jars.
  • I can see a TV show coming soon – great work you two!

  • Dave Key

    So can I Sandra! Congrats to all involved – this is fantastic! I can’t wait to see what you have to present at the other sites.

  • I have my very own melon ripening on the vine right now, grown from seeds saved from a Vaucluse House melon! And the chooks are enjoying getting in under the vine and laying there rather than in the nest box.

  • Pingback: A kitchen garden in spring | The Cook and the Curator | Sydney Living Museums()