Watermelon Jelly Recipe

watermelon jelly

When I think of fruits that are good for preserving, watermelon is not one that immediately springs to mind. Truly, it’s not something I would have even considered putting in my jam pot, had it not been for a request from my fellow former Slashfoodie, Stef from Cupcake Project.

She was trying to find a way to make a watermelon cupcake that tasted fully of the melon, without resorting to an additives not found in nature. One of her readers suggested using a watermelon jelly, and so she made a request of me. Would I be up for trying to create one that she could use in a cake?

watermelon jelly

I’m always up for a challenge and so took a stab. During the cooking, I was racked with anxieties, as the watermelon juice took on a slightly strange scent once hot. I used pectin and took the syrup all the way up to 220 degrees, in the hopes of getting a good, jellied set.

watermelon jelly

Only when I checked the jars the morning after canning, they hadn’t set solidly. The contents were thick, but still loose. I sighed and tucked the jars away, figuring I’d need to try again. However, before I managed to make another batch, I returned to the first set of jars and discovered that while they’d been sitting, the pectin had activated and they’d jelled perfectly. Upon tasting, I was happy to find that jelly was spreadable, sweet, tart and deeply watermelon-y. Another version of summer in a jar. I’m sold!

Watermelon Jelly

Yield: Makes five half pints

Ingredients

  • 5 cups white sugar
  • 5 tablespoons powdered pectin
  • 6 cups pureed watermelon (remove any seeds prior to pureeing)
  • 1/2 cup bottled lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Whisk together sugar and powdered pectin until they are fully integrated. Combine watermelon puree, sugar/pectin and lemon juice in a large, non-reactive pot.
  2. Bring to a boil and let cook until the temperature of the nascent jelly reaches 220 degrees. This can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on the width of your pot, the heat of your stove and even the weather you’re having. Check set using saucer test before removing it from the heat, to ensure that it will set.
  3. Remove from the heat and pour into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and screw on bands. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
  4. When time is up, remove from canner and let jars cool. When they’re cool enough to handle, remove rings and test seals. You can eat immediately or store unopened jars in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

Notes

*This jelly can take up to one week to set. Please give it time.

https://foodinjars.com/recipe/watermelon-jelly-recipe-2/

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81 responses to “Watermelon Jelly Recipe”

  1. I used Pomona’s for mine and got a very soft set. I’ve still got several quarts of watermelon juice in the freezer, so maybe I’ll give the powdered pectin a try to see if I get something much firmer.

  2. Great idea! I think I might give this a try. I’ve actually wondered how I could get watermelon into a jar but every time I work with it, it’s so darned watery and it softens so easily. For example, I tried to make watermelon sorbet using a recipe for other fruits and the excess water just made it freeze solid. Great for Popsicles, not so much for sorbet.

    I’ve been following your blog and I’m intrigued by the experimentation you do with commercial pectin. I’d love to tinker around with it but there isn’t much literature on the subject–the science behind how it works. I know how to do a cooked-down recipe with the fruit’s natural pectin (don’t mess with the sugar too much, cook to so many degrees, etc.) but the recipes that come with packages of commercial pectin are designed to scare you into doing their bidding–“Don’t use an OUNCE less sugar else it may not set! Boil EXACTLY one minute!” It doesn’t make sense that you can be fairly loosie-goosie with natural pectin but commercial pectin is so temperamental. I suspect it’s just the company wanting to be able to guarantee that their product works.

    I’d love to see you do a post or two about developing your own recipes with commercial pectin. What are the tricks you need to know?

    Justin, that’s a great post idea. I’ll ponder it a bit and see what I can come up with. -Marisa

  3. Fantastic! I’ve discovered your blog a week or so back and I just wanted to say congratulations on your forth-coming book, which I’m sure will be awesome. I also owe you a big thanks because yesterday I had a HUGE break-through in my jamming. I used Pomona’s pectin which people had been raving about in some of the comments. It is miraculous! I don’t think I’d ever actually experienced properly set jam until now, and with a lot less sugar. Thank you so much for all the inspiration.

  4. What a fabulous idea! Thanks so much for this method – it’s just a matter of time and we, too, will have watermelon jelly!! Yummy sounding, for sure.

    Dree, pickled watermelon rind is something we often had around when I was a kid. If you’d like to try it, I did a piece on it here: http://chickensintheroad.com/farm-bell-recipes/in-a-pickle-a-watermelon-rind-pickle/ There are a few other recipes around, but I really like the added lemon in this particular recipe. Not what I remember, but very good.

  5. This does look fabulous, and well worth trying. I LOVE jellies and jams and they’re MUCH easier to make than the Smuckers family would have you believe! …but it would be a true shame to use all that watermelon in such a great way and not pickle at least some of the rind! YAY!

  6. Sadly, I didn’t pickle the rind from the piece of watermelon I used for this jelly. It didn’t have a very thick rind, and so there just wasn’t enough to pickle.

    If memory serves, I used a wedge that was approximately 2 1/2 pounds to get the necessary six cups.

  7. Marisa have you been reading my mind?? I’ve been making watermelon jelly (or jam if you like) all summer long. It’s been my best seller at my local farmers markets … in fact I’m just about to go into my kitchen to start breaking down 3 watermelons for jelly & rind pickles – waste not, want not. Just because I’m a little obsessive/curious about waste I actually weighted out everything last time I made jelly … from 1 watermelon, about 14#, I got 20c of juice, 4.5# of rind & only 9oz of wasted peel! Anyway I can never seem to leave well enough alone so I always end up adding different spices to my baked goods to “improve” them so I add cinnamon sticks, cardamom, allspice & black pepper to my watermelon jelly – so good! Also I’ve only been using Ball brand, no sugar needed pectin in all my jams so I can add a minimal amount of sugar, which in my case is about 1c of sugar to 8c of fruit. Since the watermelon turned out so good I was inspired to try other melons as well … so I also came up with a cantaloupe champagne & honeydew-lime-ginger jams – both big sellers as well. Ok well, back to the kitchen, unfortunatly those watermelons aren’t going to breakdown themselves!

  8. Wow. I am planning a lot of canning for the long weekend, and this definitely goes on the list.

    How did you determine how much lemon juice to add? I always want to try developing my own recipes but don’t have a PH meter, so usually I just do substitutions where I swap out less-acidic ingredients for more-acidic ones (like taking a salsa recipe and swapping out half the tomatoes for peaches). Since I’m working with well-tested recipes, this lets me experiment without worrying that I’ll poison myself…

  9. Marisa, I’m new to canning, and don’t have a digital read or candy thermometer. I really want to try this jelly recipe, so is there any other way that I can tell when the liquid/sugar mixture has been cooked enough to add the pectin? Also, if I’m using the Ball no-sugar pectin, would it be ok to cut down on the amount of added white sugar? Thanks so much, your blog is really inspiring!

  10. Julia, having not made it with no-sugar pectin, I can’t answer your question with any level of certainty. I’d suggest looking at the recipes on the pectin insert and subbing in the watermelon juice into one of their jelly recipes and seeing how it turns out.

  11. Marisa, you tend to go for less sweet jams, and this recipe looks like a much higher ratio of sugar than average. If you had been making it for yourself and not as worried about whether it would set, would you think that the taste would have been improved by being somewhat less sweet?Y’know, I haven’t had watermelon even once this summer. I think it might be time to fix that now that I have something to do with the random half a watermelon I never get around to finishing until it has gone off. Thanks

  12. Do you think that I can leave out the lemon juice? We stay away from citrus because it gives my daughter migraines. I used to avoid pectin because it has citric acid, but this year she is doing OK with it.

    • You absolutely cannot leave out the lemon juice. This jelly will not have enough acidity to be canned safely if you remove the acid. You could potentially add white vinegar to it as a substitute, but I don’t have any idea how that would taste.

  13. Pete, thanks so much to the link for watermelon pickles. My grandmother used to make them & they’re delicious. I bought a watermelon to try them last year, but seedless watermelons have such a thin rind, I didn’t bother. Now I’ve got to buy a regular melon & try this.

  14. I’m wondering if this is enough acid. The watermelon jelly recipe in the Ball Complete Guide calls for 1/2 c. vinegar, in addition to the 4T. of lemon juice. It looks like you followed the Ball recipe, except left out the vinegar.

  15. I’ve been following your blog for a few weeks now and I really enjoy your posts! I have never canned a thing in my life, but I love all your material.

    I’m thinking of starting a garden at my parents’ house (I have no land, since I live in an apt) next summer so that I can start canning. I know I could have started this summer and just bought veggies etc from the store, but I wasn’t ready for the start-up costs (plus I haven’t yet warned my DH of my new hobby-to-be).

    Anyway, all of that was to say, you have made me want to can! Most home canned goods I’ve seen look dull and lifeless–but yours!–yours is practically art! Love it.

  16. I read your post at work and picked up a watermelon on my way home. I made your recipe just as listed and I got nine eight ounce jars that all sealed beautifully (and a little bit that I put into a cup and in the fridge to taste tomorrow). I really hope mine set just as yours did, right now they look very runny and I’m worried, but either way, I’m excited about how it will taste. Thank you for sharing!

  17. When I do my cooking/ baking, I’m one of those people who just “eyeball” measurments; I rarely use my measuring devices. I’m curious about this approach when it comes to canning. I have made a few of your recipes (great, btw!)but I seldom have the exact amount on hand of the main fruit/ vegetable. When it comes to adding the additional acid, beit vinegar or citrus, are exact measurements essential? I have guessed in the past, but I am concerned about safety, especially for long term food storage. (the few pints that have been canned recently have been eaten soon after, defeating the purpose of canning in the first place!)

  18. I’ve been making watermelon pickles for eons and this year has been no different. While my family loves to eat the watermelon, having that taste in the winter would be lovely. I’m going to give this one a try. Thank you.

  19. Just can’t get this recipe out of my mind! Am dreaming about it over ice cream!! (Loosy-goosy jellies and jams were ALWAYS sauces or syrups back in the day.)

  20. I keep thinking about my favorite combination: watermelon with mint and lime. An easy swap of lime juice for the lemon, and maybe a bit of mint infusion or even flecks at the last minute. Can’t wait to try this!

  21. It’s been two days now and my jam still hasn’t set 🙁
    Do you see any harm in trying to cook it again and maybe adding another packet of pectin?

  22. I recently moved to Oklahoma, where watermelon is the state vegetable. There are watermelons everywhere, including a 57-pound watermelon at the farmers market yesterday! There is a serious need for lots of melon preservation recipes down here. I’m going to try watermelon jelly with a yellow watermelon I just bought.

    Preserving melons can be done, but the water content makes it tricky. Last year I made a delicious chunky sauce from leftover watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe and lots of ginger and lime juice. It was out of this world. I didn’t use pectin, but it was pretty thick from cooking and ended up thickening even more over time. I would think pectin would ensure a set, but then again do you really need it to set? Watermelon jelly does seem like it would be better over ice cream or poured into a cake rather than just on toast.

    What would you think about a canned recipe for fire and ice salsa?

  23. This will be my first go at something using pectin. I have a packet of “no cook freezer jam fruit pectin” made by Ball. (45 grams) Will this work for the above recipe? Thanks so much!

  24. How long was it before you got a good set? Mine just came out of the canner a few hours ago, and it’s alarmingly thin. I’m wondering how long to give it to get its act together. ;-P

  25. I was just going to ask the same question as Belinda, as I canned 9 half-pints yesterday, and they are really watery. Can’t wait to taste this jelly – the color is so wonderful!

  26. Mine is simmering on the stovetop. I am hovering over it in anticipation. I am using lime juice, only because that is what I found in the fridge, Fingers crossed.

  27. I made a couple of mods on your recipe. I added 1 packet plus 1 tablespoon of powered pectin and used 4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of fresh lime juice (with pulp) and it turned out wonderful. I made it at 9am and when I came home a 7pm it had already set up perfectly. Thanks for the recipe!

  28. I also worry about the amount of acid; watermelon is not acidic, with a pH of 5.2 – 5.6 (according to this paper:http://www.foodscience.caes.uga.edu/extension/documents/FDAapproximatepHoffoodslacf-phs.pdf). If tomatoes, right on the cusp of the pH 4.6 safe limit, need 1 tbsp of lemon juice/pint, surely watermelon would need more than about 1 and 1/2 tbsp? Or perhaps the high amount of sugar is protective? I have heard this rationale for why fig preserves (another low-acid fruit) are safe for BWB.

    FWIW, I just made a mod of the Ball book recipe, using 6 cups of strained watermelon juice that I reduced to 3 cups then added 3/4 c of white balsamic vinegar and 6 tbsp lemon juice. Vinegar definitely comes through, but I was surprised by how much I liked the flavor. (I totally agree though; hot watermelon does NOT smell appealing).

  29. I made your recipe just last night. I tastes wonderful! The first thing that came to mind was watermelon jolly ranchers.

    Anyway, you mentioned it took awhile for the mixture to set after processing. How long did it actually take? I made mine around midnight last night (so, about 20 hrs ago) and it’s still pretty liquidy.

  30. If I had just read some of the other posts, I would have learned that it’s taking around a week to set. That’s nice to hear because I really want this batch to be a hit. The small amount I had left was put in a container because I didn’t want to waste even the small amount – IT IS UNBELIEVABLY DELICIOUS! Never tasted anything like it! Thank you!

  31. If you have problems with the lemon itself or the lemon flavor, you can purchase pure citric acid. It’s impossible to be allergic to this, since citric acid is present in trace amounts in all of your body’s cells. It’s an intermediate formed as your body breaks down sugars to generate energy.

    The easiest source that I know of is suppliers for people who make wine. I believe it is used for cleaning the wooden barrels, but it still has to be food grade. It’s quite sour without any other flavors.

  32. i’ve been thinking about trying to make a watermelon-guava jelly. do you know the acid level of guava juice? would i still need as much lemon juice? also, am i crazy or does this flavor combination also sound good to anyone else?

  33. It’s been 5 days and very minimal evidence of a set (in a jar made from a halved recipe with the whole amount of pectin and encouraged by the cold fridge)…panic is setting in!

  34. Caitlin, if it doesn’t set, you can always uncan it, recook it (boil up to 220 degrees) and recan it. I know that’s not ideal, but it should get you a better set.

  35. I’m sorry to say that this was not a success for me. Uncharacteristically, I tried a 1 cup test batch, and I’m so glad I did. I used Pomona’s Pectin and had no problems getting a set, but the flavor was not good. I used a yellow watermelon, which was delicious and sweet when raw, but cooked it tasted like vegetable. I added lots of lemon juice, but that didn’t help either. After toying with flavors (cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, etc.) I finally got a flavor that was ok with a lot of sugar, a bit of salt, lime juice, tequila, and triple sec, but I still didn’t see myself eating it. After all that work deseeding the watermelon and getting set up to can, I shelved the project. I froze the watermelon puree and will try it in margaritas instead. Bummer!

  36. I ran across the watermelon jam. It sounds delicious. I have never thought about canning except that my grandmother use to do it. Since looking at your site, I have found that this sounds interesting.
    Could you tell me the best way to get started for someone who knows nothing about canning?

    Thanks,

    Stephanie

  37. Last night I opened all of the jars, reheated the jelly to 220 degrees with another packet of pectin, added juice from half a lime (and a little extra sugar), and re-canned. It was already starting to set by the time I went to bed, and the yummy “extra” I’d put in the fridge last night was fully set this morning.

  38. This sounds AMAZING! I can’t wait to try it. I have a question. Do you think you could adjust this recipe to make a Cantaloupe Jelly?

  39. I’ve been so so excited to try this recipe! I could hardly wait till summer. Unfortunately, I had a few hangups- like some others, my jelly did not set up even after waiting a week. I think perhaps, this may be due to differing water content of the watermelons based on variety and ripeness (though this is totally a guess). I used a seedless watermelon to try to avoid the annoying de-seeding process, but although they are quite soft and edible there ARE still seeds in them which don’t look very nice chopped up in the jar. So I decided to re-can them. I poured them into the pot and heated to a boil then strained them- this not only removed those totally-edible-but-unsightly-“seedless”-seeds, but also removed the watermelon pulp which can have a somewhat mealy texture. I also added 6 additional tablespoons of (fresh this time) lemon juice to add a more clean fresh summer-y taste and take away that “jolly-rancher-ish” edge. I then brought the juice up to 220 and added another packet of pectin and jarred and process- and they gelled great! I was worried about the off-putting smell of the cooked watermelon, but honestly, it just kinda smells like raw vegetables- but no worries- still tastes like watermelon in the end. In conclusion- Great Recipe!!!- I had to make a couple adjustments to suit my tastes, but I am so happy to now have “summer in a jar”

  40. I just took 7 jelly jars out of the canner and all have sealed. Whoo Hoo! As advertised it did smell funky when it got good and hot but it smelled just like the rind did when I pickled it and that turned out really good. I have a small quantity, not even 1/4 cup in the fridge and it seems to be setting up nicely. It it doesn’t set it will be labled Watermelon syrup and used to flavor drinks and go over ice cream, cake and other stuff. I reduced a 20 +lb watermelon into 16 pints of sweet rind pickles and 7 jelly jars of beautifully clear jelly/syrup. Very little waste to that mellon, and yes we ate till we couldn’t eat any more of the wonderful sweet meat and shared it with many friends.

  41. It certainly DOES have a strange smell while cooking, but the taste is wonderful! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    I used key lime juice in mine, and used my bulk jelly recipe with bulk Ball pectin. Perfect set! The taste is outstanding! I got nearly 13 cups. I can’t wait to sell this at the farmer’s market next week!

  42. I thought the idea of watermelon jelly was awesome. Still do however, mine has never set up after almost two weeks. I had a huge seedless watermelon out of which I obtained nearly 2 gallons of juice. I kept one gallon bag of juice in the freezer for another project and used about 10 cups of juice with 10 cups of sugar and two packs of the liquid pectin. Is it the liquid pectin that was the problem or what do you think? I followed the instructions on the boil, etc., but I did not use the candy thermometer (I have one…). I am willing to go back and empty the jars and recook if that will be safe. I have a small jelly business and this would be a great addition. Looking forward to any helpful hints! Thanx!

    • It sounds like you had far too much volume in the pot. It’s incredibly hard to get enough evaporation when you’ve got so much depth to surface area. What’s more, I find powdered pectin far more reliable for jelly than liquid.

  43. I’m giving this a try right now. The jars are in the water bath. I used one of those personal-sized “seedless” melons and since I didn’t have anything to puree it with, I just crushed the fruit as well as a I could with the bottom of a clean glass. I also didn’t remove most of the seeds in the interest of saving time, so I’m hoping they’ll rise to the top of the jelly and then they can just be scooped out. This should be interesting.

  44. PS- I halved the recipe (since the watermelon only contained about 3 cups of fruit) but while doing so, I forgot to halve the pectin, so I ended up still using the whole box. I’m hoping that will mean I won’t have to cook everything a second time to get it to gel, but it’s still kind of watery (though it’s only day 2 so I’m prepared to wait).

  45. Just made mine and am sealing them. This is only my second jam/jelly and starting with 6 cups of puree ( had to strain mine as the chunkiness was bugging me) I only got a pint and 1/4 at the end. Did I cook it too slow? It seemed to take forever to reach temp.

  46. Hi, Marissa – did any of your jelly not get eaten right away 😉 – and stay shelf-stable for a long time? I would probably give some of these as Christmas gifts this year, but would make it this week… thanks so much for posting this recipe 🙂

  47. The only problem with this jelly is that it tastes like watermelon rind. The juice/pulp (both of them) changes character when you heat it up. It does not taste good at all.

  48. I am VERY new to canning (thanks to Marisa’s class). Have made a preserve and some butters to much success and was excited to try the watermelon jelly. The mixture took very long to cook and never got past 200 degrees. Then all of a sudden I got a burnt smelling rock hard mess. I knew it was taking too long but I was trying to get to the 220 temperature. Maybe to high? Any tips for jelly making that I am missing? Thanks for any help.

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