Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Citron Watermelon Preserves: You Can Candy Watermelon?

Citron Warermelon
What is a Citron Watermelon?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, citron melons are "(a) a cultivated variety of melon having yellow-green flesh (now rare); (b) U.S. a small variety of watermelon, Citrullus lanatus var. citroides, having firm flesh which is used in preserves." To clarify, citron melons are a type of watermelon that are actually believed to be the ancestor of today's common watermelon. According to www.eattheweeds.com, "watermelons were grown in the Nile Valley by 2000 BC, in India by 800 AD, China in 1100 AD. They were in Cordoba by 961 AD and Seville in 1158 AD. They came to the New World with the Spanish in the 1500s or so." These melons get their name from its generic name Citrullis, not from any association with the fruit also called citron (Citrus medica) which is a citrus fruit, not a melon at all.

How Does the Flesh of the Melon Taste?
Notice in the picture, the flesh is white but the seeds are red.  The flesh of the melon tastes a little bit bitter and without too much taste on its own. It is definitely does not have the sweetness of traditional American watermelons.  

Why Make Preserves Out of Watermelon? 
Because the flesh is considered too bitter by many to consume fresh, other methods for utilizing the citron watermelon have been devised.  An alternative way of using these melons is to turn them into preserves with lots of sugar and added flavorings such as lemon or ginger.  These melons are also often called pie melons because they contain a lot of natural pectin, a natural gelatin of sorts, which allows them to make perfect preserves which can be used as pie fillings, jams, and glazes.  Once made into preserves with lots of sugar and lemon, the citron melon tastes refreshingly light, sweet and pleasant (very different that it tastes raw).

Historic Recipe for Citron Preserves
Buckeye Cookery by Estelle Woods Wilcox. Minneapolis: 1877.
Pare off rind, seed, cut in thin slices two inches long, weigh, and put in preserving kettle with water enough to cover; boil one hour, take out the melon, and to the water in kettle add so much sugar as there is melon by weight, boil until quite thick, replace melon, add two sliced lemons to each pound of fruit, boil twenty minutes, take out, boil syrup until it is very thick molasses, and pour it over the fruit.--Mrs. J. H. Robinson, Kenton

Modern Recipe Adaptation


Ingredients: 1 Citron Watermelon
1 Pound Sugar Per Pound of Chopped Watermelon
2 Sliced Small Lemons or 1 Sliced Large Lemon Per Pound of Chopped Watermelon

  • Thoroughly wash the whole watermelon.
  • Remove the outer skin with a vegetable peeler.  Just peel it like a potato!
Peel off the Outer Skin with a Vegetable Peeler

  • Slice the watermelon in half and then slice each half into pieces.
  • Remove the seeds (notice that they are red!).
The flesh of the melon is white while the seeds are red!

  • Slice the flesh and the rind in one-inch square or two-inch square chunks.
Peeled chunks of melon.

  • Weigh the watermelon.
  • Place the watermelon in a large preserving pan or stockpot and cover with water.  Cover the pot with its lid.
  • Place on the stovetop and bring to a boil.  Then, turn down the heat to medium and simmer for one hour.  They will be done when they are soft and translucent. 
The melon is done when it is translucent.
  • Remove the melon from the water, making sure to reserve the cooking liquid.  Add the cooking liquid back to the pot and return to the stovetop.  
  • Into the pot with the reserved cooking liquid, add a pound of sugar for every pound of watermelon chunks that were cooked.
  • Cook uncovered over a medium-high heat until the water/sugar mixture is reduced to a thick syrup.
  • Add the cooked watermelon and the sliced lemons to the syrup.  Boil uncovered for 20 minutes.
Add Lemons
  • After 20 minutes, remove the fruit to a bowl and return the syrup to the heat.  Be careful when working with the syrup as it gets VERY HOT! Boil the syrup again until the syrup is as thick as molasses (boiling times will vary based on the amount of syrup).
  • Pour the syrup over the watermelon.Note:  You can use the hot-water canner method to preserve the melon for future use.

 Citron Melons Preserves

1 comment:

  1. How did you get all the seeds out? I had a Citron watermelon last fall (well, I have loads more still in storage), and it seems it would have taken about ten hours to remove all the seeds. I ended up just cooking and eating the seeds, too. They're not bad when they're cooked (but they're very fibrous when they're not cooked).

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