Watermelon Jelly Not Jam – An Experiment in Canning

watermelon jelly

Watermelon Jelly

This week’s theme is Summer Salad Recipes & Fruit (Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Honey Dew, etc.) I made Watermelon Jelly, not jam (explanation below)!  I’ve never tried canning before, and it was actually fun. I was going to make a summer salad and then changed my mind at the last minute because I already have some summer fruit salads, and I decided to just go with a summer fruit recipe instead, which turned into my first canning experiment.

Watermelon Jelly Not Jam
When we saw 11 watermelons successfully growing on our watermelon vine, we knew that it was time to figure out some ways to preserve them. Yep, that’s the reason. Obviously we love watermelon and plan to eat a lot of it, but when it comes right down to it, even a family of 7 does not need to consume 11 watermelons in the course of a summer. (okay maybe, but still…)

Plus, I figured if I learned how to do some canning/preserving, surely I would be able to grow more next summer and feel confident that we wouldn’t wind up with too much. It was an easy choice for Watermelon Jelly after seeing it at our Farmer’s Market and wanting some ever since.

I had no idea what I would learn in this process, and how much researching would go into it. I’ve always wanted to try canning and this was the time. I asked the lady at the Farmer’s Market about her jelly and she was more than happy to tell me how she made it. Her recipe sounded simple, puree watermelon, strain, add some sugar, lemon juice and liquid pectin and boil to perfection. Wait, how do I know it’s perfect? And thus began my search into learning how to make Watermelon Jelly.

When I googled it, I found loads of recipes that didn’t strain the watermelon, yet the lady told me to. So I was determined to do it her way, and not how I was reading it. Yes, that did require some experimentation but it worked. Also, most recipes online call for powdered pectin but I had purchased liquid pectin because my Farmer’s Market lady told me to.

I also realized that once I strained the fruit, I was truly making a Jelly and not a Jam. There is a difference. What is it?

Jam is made from the pulp of the fruit, Jelly is made from the fruit juice. I did not actually know/realize the difference, because until now, I just didn’t care. I just knew I really loved jelly because of the smooth consistency. I did save the pulp after I strained it though (and a bit of watermelon juice), and we made some delicious drinks which I will post this week. I’m loving watermelon flavored everything and am definitely going to have some fun with all of this. If you want to make watermelon jam, just keep the pulp there. Don’t strain it.

During my research, I came across a blog that had made watermelon jelly and I was both surprised and delighted to find that she had created her Watermelon Jelly for someone else, and I can now say I know that someone else (I knew I was meeting her soon when I made this, so I thought it only fitting). Stef from the Cupcake Project is the someone else. I met her this weekend at Food Media Forum and let me just tell you that it took everything in me not to tell her I had made it when I saw her, met her, talked to her. (she’s awesome!) So nope, she doesn’t know until the pingback hits her blog today and perhaps even then I might need to comment and let her know, and since it’s not her recipe, I’ll also head back to the original blog as well. The biggest reason I didn’t tell Stef I made it,  is because I made it Thursday and it said it needed a week to set (it didn’t, but I didn’t know that) and I was seeing her Saturday and if it was a giant fail, I wanted to make it again before I told her. haha Lame, I know.

So the story goes like this, Stef was on a mission to create a watermelon cupcake that tasted like watermelon. Her first cupcake was a fail (though they sure look yummy and they tasted good, just not watermelon flavor) so she turned to her friend Food in a Jar to create a  watermelon jelly for her to use in the second batch of cupcakes. Since her cupcakes seemed to be a success, I decided to use this recipe and tweak it a little and make Watermelon Jelly.

Guess what? It worked. We have beautiful jars of  Jelly and I cannot wait to get the rest of the watermelon’s grown so we can make more. I made about three half pint jars with one single small watermelon. I am hoping that by the end of the summer we will have tons of jars and be able to use it all winter long and enjoy the sweet taste of summer all winter long.

watermelon jelly

Watermelon Jelly – Summer in a Jar


4.8 from 5 reviews
Watermelon Jelly – An Experiment in Canning {TWC #92}
Summer in a jar, this watermelon jelly is sweet and smooth. Can it, preserve it and enjoy it in the cold depths of winter to immediately be brought back to days of sand and flip flops, the sweet taste of summer.
Recipe type: Condiments
Cuisine: Canning
  • 4 cups of watermelon juice
  • 4 cups of white sugar
  • 7 Tablespoons of lemon juice (bottled is better because you don’t get the extra pulp)
  • 2 boxes of SURE-JELL FOR LESS OR NO SUGAR NEEDED RECIPES (the pink box)
  1. To get your watermelon juice, cut up your watermelon into small chunks and puree in your blender or food processor. I found the blender worked better. Strain the juice out to remove the pulp and the seeds. Save the pulp for another recipe or discard. Do this until you have 4 cups of watermelon juice. You will need to do it in at least 2 batches, maybe three.
  2. In the widest stock pot you have (see tips for information on this) add the watermelon juice, lemon juice and sugar and blend together. Add the pectin and stir together again.
  3. Heat to boiling and then allow to boil on the stove until it gets to 220 degrees, a digital thermometer will help here, big time. I stirred the mixture a few times to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. It took me 20 minutes to reach 220, but it can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes to reach this which depends on the size of the pot, the pectin, the temperature outside, etc. In other words, this is all a science, and what works one time, might not work the next. My advice, keep an eye on it. I burned a batch because I answered the phone. Yes, 35 seconds to go across the floor to grab the phone and it burned.
  4. Once you have reached the desired 220 degrees (please, please use a digital or candy thermometer to do this and then follow the plate test below in the tips to make sure its done).
  5. Once you have determined its ready, remove from heat and carefully pour it into your jars. (see the tips for some notes on this too!)
  6. If you didn’t use a canning jar funnel, make sure you wipe the lids well, and then put the lids on. (these jars are hot! Use canning tongs or a thick kitchen towel to handle)
  7. Quickly clean your big pot out, place the jars in the bottom and fill with hot water covering the jars by over an inch. I had some trouble because one of my jars was only half full and it wanted to bob around in there. I let it, it didn’t hurt anything.
  8. Put the pot on the stove, heat to boiling again and give it a 10 minute hot water bath.
  9. After 10 minutes, remove the pot from the stove, CAREFULLY remove the jars from the water (I used a canning basket, so it was fairly easy) and allow the jars to cool enough to handle.
  10. Remove the rings around the jar and test the seals, make sure they are secure but don’t break the seal. Replace the rings and store for up to a year in a cool, dry place (dark is good too). If any of the seals are broken, use that jar, and enjoy your watermelon jelly. Don’t forget to label the jar, or if you make several kinds you won’t remember what is what. Please make sure and read the extra tips below.

Important Tips on Canning Watermelon Jelly

  • You want to use the widest and tallest pot you can find. The reason is, the wider the pot, the better the heat process is for the jelly. You need it to be tall, because you want it to really get boiling, and when it does, it’s going to be creeping up the sides of the pot. Trust me on this. Large stockpot = perfect canning device.
  • You’re going to ask me if you can use liquid pectin, and perhaps you can, but I will tell you that this particular jelly worked beautifully the exact way I made it and I have not tried any other way.  I have seen complaints that the jelly didn’t set, I’ve seen complaints that it over set. Mine set. With this EXACT recipe. I don’t think it had anything to do with liquid vs. powdered. It was beautiful, spreadable and delicious. I cannot help you if you want to substitute something else or change the recipe in any way. I’m sorry. I am not a canning expert, this was an experiment and it worked for me. We’ve made it several times since and had no problems.
  • If instead you’d like a watermelon syrup that is GREAT with waffles, pancakes, ice cream, etc… lower the pectin amount. Use only one box. Yes, we’ve done it and its amazing.
  • When you think your mixture is done boiling and ready to be removed, do the plate test. So much easier. Take a small plate or bowl and put it in the freezer at the start of this whole process (at least 15 minutes). When you think your mixture is ready, take a small spoonful and put it on the freezing plate. Give it about a minute or so and test it. If it’s forming a skin or solidifying a bit, it’s ready. If it’s still very runny after a minute, give your jelly a few more minutes on the stove. I used three plates in the freezer just in case it wasn’t done the first time. It was.
  • When you are ready to pour the jelly into the jars, I strongly urge you to purchase a canning funnel, I got an entire pack of supplies for about $6 at walmart that came with all sorts of interesting tools – the jar handler (for when it’s hot) and the wide mouth canning funnel were the two I wanted and use the most. When you funnel the liquid into the jar, pour slowly and carefully. You will burn yourself badly if you get any of that liquid on your skin. Once the jar appears full, allow it to sit for a minute. You’ll be surprised by how much it settles and you can add more in. Fill to about a half inch from the top. Each time you pour more liquid in, just give in a minute to settle so you can make sure you completely fill the jar. I didn’t realize how much it would settle, so I figure you might not. So just a tip to make things easier.
  • Get yourself a canning basket. They are pretty cheap at Walmart or Target and they make the whole process so much easier! I’m not kidding either.
  • I reserve the right to add more tips as I continue to make batches of watermelon jelly 😉

Have you ever made any jelly’s or tried canning? Tell me about your experiences below!

Don't miss a single recipe!
Follow Nicole on: facebook | twitter | pinterest | instagram


  1. says

    I had watermelon jelly the first time at a local, small restaurant that is only open for breakfast and lunch. They make their own jellies and you can have whatever ones you like for your breakfast. I always get the watermelon. I’m excited to see your post for it! Maybe one of these days I’ll get canning again.

  2. says

    Ooh ! watermelon jelly sounds yummy ! Growing your own melons must be so cool ! Most I’ve grown are the usual stuff.. cukes, tomatoes etc. Never have enough watermelon when I buy them since my family devours them, but will put some aside to try this jelly ! Pretty pics too !

  3. Sherine says

    You can also freeze chopped or thinly sliced watermelon and eat it FROZEN. Yummy sweet treat without any guilt!

  4. Kathy Powell says

    I made the watermelon jelly by your receipe, This was my 1st time doing watermelon, It is delicious, a bit sweet but good, I could not find the liquid pectin any where here so had to use powdered, worked great, Actually I was preparing it an had all in pot an someone came in so I visited with them before starting to cook it an after it started cooking I looked, an low an behold there set a box of petrin I had not put in , so I added it at that point, still worked great, it only took mine about 10 minutes to get to 220 degrees. I hate watermelon an so does my brother but we both love the jelly. thanks for receipe. I am about to go ,ake blackberry now, picked this morn an have them cooked down an strained. , but this receipe works great , jelly is very firm an tasty. (took a little longer to firm up than my other jellies but was great

  5. Penny says

    I will definitely be trying this recipe. However a couple words of advice (I have been canning for years) to those that are new at canning. First get the BALL BLUE BOOK. It gives all of the whys, why nots, do’s and do not’s for canning. All jellies, jams, spreads, preserves,conserves, etc. are supposed to have a 1/4 inch head space. Not 1/2 inch. Also it is much easier (and has less burning) if you use a medium sized tall ceramic stock pot. Not just an enamel stock pot. When you have finished filling your jars and putting the lids and rings on, you will save a lot of time if you already have a canning stock pot with boiling water in it. Less time involved with processing. Sometimes if over processed your jelly/jam will not set. I personally do not use the canning rack. Too much hassle for the amount I can. I purchased another ‘tray’ (that is used in the bottom of a pressure cooker/canner). It is easier and less time consuming for me. Plus they always seem to rust quickly. I am glad to see more people pick up canning. It is a wonderful way to save money. Plus healthier!

    • Cheryl says

      I also have canned a great deal.
      Headspace: For jelly jars and smaller – even 1/8″ head space is recommended. It is important to have the correct headspace amount for what you are making and in what size jar you are using.
      That jar that was only 1/2 full and bobing around?? Don’t even process it. Put it in your fridge and enjoy.
      I use one pot of water to sterilize my jars and then process them in. I have and use a second pot to cook my jam/jelly.

  6. Jolene Harris says

    I am going to try this. My neighbor just gave me 2 large watermellons and I figured Jelly and pickles here I come. I have my own Jam business so this would be a great addition. I made Cantalope jam last week and boy was it good. If anybody wants the recipe let me know.

    • sharon currey says

      Hi Jolene Harris;
      I can’t imagine cantaloupe jelly or jam having never seen it but I was thrilled with your offer of the recipe. I love ripe cantaloupe and it is so rare to get it ripe that I would like to can it when it appears. I would be so happy to try your recipe. Thanks for the offer and God bless you.

    • says

      It is three. The first time we made it we were able to use only two. After that I upped it to three to keep it from being so syrupy. I have corrected it in the directions.

    • Christina says

      I have been doing some research and read that 2 tablespoons of powdered pectin added in at the same time as the sugar does the same as 1 packet of liquid pectin….just in case that question comes up.

  7. Sandra Jelliff says

    I have just started canning. I am enjoying myself so much. When I see all the fresh veggies & the beauty of everything I wonder why I’m just getting into it. I’m looking forward to making making this jelly. Thank you for the recipe.

    • Sande says

      Hi, I just found your offer of a cantaloupe jam recipe which sounds fabulous. This summer I would love to give it a try so please send if possible. Thank you in advance.

  8. Melissa says

    I made this yesterday and despite my families odd looks at the thought of watermelon jam, they thought it was AWESOME! Thank you so much :) I used the powdered pectin, and used a little more than you suggested (i really like a thick jam) and it turned out perfect. Great directions and recipe! It has all the watermelon flavor and is very sweet. Thanks again :)

  9. sharon currey says

    I Just came upon your website and think the watermelon jelly looks wonderful. I wonder if one could cut down on the sugar though as I don’t like things too sweet. What do you think? Thank you for sharing with us on your blog and God bless you.

  10. Darlene Nelson says

    I made this since we have so many watermelons growing and it taste delicious. I would love it if I could get the recipe for the Cantaloupe Jam that one lady was talking about earlier in the comments. I just started canning this year and I am addicted to it. My cabinets are going to be packed with all of these delicious recipes I am finding.

  11. Tymon says

    This was an excellent jelly. I always thought strawberry jelly was my favorite. This was better. I have made two batches now, and my family loves them. Thanks for posting this.

  12. Sadie Kelly says

    I would love to try the Watermelon Jelly recipe. However, sugar is off limits for me right now. Is there a substitute I could use for the sugar?

  13. says

    How much jelly does this recipe make? Just harvested a 43-lb. honker from our garden (our first ever!), and brought 1/2 of it home after a party. Managed to snag ~10 cups of juice separate from the fruit/pulp itself, and thought this might be a good way to use a lot of that up!

    Thanks so much –

  14. Trish In Spokane says

    I have said I would make Watermelon Jelly for years, and never have–did everything else to great success! So…today I was given a largish over-ripe watermelon; not really best for fresh eating so jelly it is! I scraped all the flesh & juice into my Ninja blender (I wanted as much pulp as possible to make it into the jars)…this yielded 9 cups juice. Right now I am simmering that juice to reduce to the 4 cups needed for the recipe…I am hoping this will really concentrate the summer flavor…wish me luck!

    • says

      I am not sure if that will do anything to the makeup of the watermelon juice as far as consistency or flavor but it might be worth a try to see what happens. If you do decide to try freezing it, please let us know how that goes. I usually make it pretty quick, so I’ve never frozen the juice.

  15. Amy says

    I won’t rate the recipe, because of course I only half followed it and half winged it, so I don’t even know what I did, but it was great! Today’s batch is going to be more true to the recipe, so I will try to review it after. I just saw that you are in St. Charles, which is where I’m from, but living in Minnesota. It’s nice to find little connections. :) Thank you for the recipe!

    • says

      You’re welcome and it’s nice to meet another Missourian. 😉 I spent a lot of years living all over but wound up coming back and staying. I love St. Charles. :)

  16. tamlynfox says

    I love your blog, you have so many unique recipes like this one and you promote other bloggers which is cool. I wanted to ask where you got the adorable button bows on top of the jars, or if you made them is there a tutorial? Thanks so much for all you do.

    • says

      I did buy them, but I can’t remember where. However, I know positively they were in the craft aisle, as they were like “stickers”. It may have been Michael’s where I found them, or perhaps Hobby Lobby. I know I have seen similar ones in the craft aisle at both Target and Walmart. Hope that helps you at least track some down. Thank you for the sweet, sweet words about my blog and mission. You just made my whole day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe: