It’s late one evening in March 2001, and we’re finishing up dinner our first night in Campbeltown, Scotland.
Joyce Gardiner, my dear friend Judith’s mum, places a sterling shaker on the table alongside our post-entrée cantaloupe.
Pepper, I assume. Hmmm. Maybe my dad’s side of the family, who sprinkled salt and pepper on all kinds of melon, wasn’t so weird after all (or maybe their Lancashire and Scots roots were showing).
What shakes out, though, is an ivory powder, not wee black flecks. White pepper? Nope, says Jude. Ground ginger.
I hadn’t thought much about that table until the other day. A few straight weeks of melon-laden fruit shares had backed up on us, and I was flipping through my well-stained copy of Food in Jars for inspiration. I’d made a peach-basil-chicken stew with fresh ginger the day before—and still had half-a-hand on hand—so when I saw Marisa’s cantaloupe jam, I knew had to give the mash-up a go.
Adapted from Food in Jars. My yield was 5 quarter-pint jars.
- 1 medium cantaloupe, seeded and cut into small chunks (I ended up with just over 2 cups of cut fruit)
- 1-1/3 c granulated sugar
- 2 1-inch pieces of fresh ginger root, peeled and cut into chunks or strips
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- zest of 1 lemon (or lime)
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 3-oz packet of liquid pectin (I used Certo)
Stir together the cantaloupe, ginger, and sugar in a non-reactive pot. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out with the side of a knife. Add both the seeds and the split pod to the pot.
Bring everything to a rapid boil and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the melon is quite soft. The pieces will cook down significantly, but if it still looks too chunky for you, mash away with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher.
Add the citrus zest and juice—and the entire packet of pectin. Once the mixture returns to a boil, cook for 3-5 more minutes, until the bubbles are thick and the jam starts to cling to the sides of the pot.
Remove from heat. Fish out the vanilla pod and the ginger pieces. Ladle jam into sterilized jars. Process in a boiling-water canning bath for 10 minutes. See Marisa’s recipe (or her excellent book) if you need a refresher on processing.
I loved it spread on a ham sandwich for lunch, but I could also see it gracing a bagel and cream cheese—or even toasted baguette slices spread with chèvre.
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Note to you East coasters- pickled beans using your recipe and using both green and yellow beans are known as Pickled Packer Beans. Figure out Eagle pickles.
They’d surely be made with some sort of bitter melon, pop. And maybe the tears of Dick Vermeil.