Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Making makataan jam

Makataan? As an English-speaking South African, I had never heard of 'makataan'. This hefty fruit is a 'wild melon' - one of 1000 varieties of watermelon. It is similar in size to a large watermelon but the inside is white / very pale green. The taste of the raw fruit is bland - not much flavour although you can tell it is of the melon family.

I processed the makataan that I received at night so I didn't take any photos. This image from herbgarden.co.za
The makataan ended up with me after being bumped down the line. I was the one to say, "Ok, I'll make the jam" - and this was before I'd seen the fruit!

The preparation of makataan jam is quite laborious, from chopping up the fruit to soaking in slaked lime, rinsing, blanching, syrup making, boiling and bottling. I found recipes online and did a bit of this and that.

It took me a while to chop the fruit. The part used for the preserve is the pith - the equivalent of the pale section of a watermelon. The peel and seed part is discarded - these went straight into my YOLO Compost Tumbler. Many recipes use big chunks. I went with smaller cubes (approx 1cm).

The first part involves soaking the fruit pieces in a solution of slaked lime, which can be purchased from a pharmacy as a powder. Calcium hydroxide is a preservative that can clarify raw juice and is used in the pickling of cucumbers. I'm not sure, but in the making of this jam I think it contributes to keeping the fruit crunchy.

After soaking overnight, I left the fruit to rinse in clean water for a few hours before blanching the cubes in boiling water. This is done in batches and took a long time to work through. I had the company of my friend Sylvi for this stage (she was tasked with grating ginger too and making the syrup).

The colour of the blanched cubes was amazing. The pieces looked whitish when pulled from the water but within seconds started turning this amazing translucent lime colour.

Raw fruit on the left and blanched cubes on the right.
While the cubes were being blanched, we started on the syrup -  a general sugar-water mix. We put grated ginger and lemon slices into a muslin bag to boil in the syrup - the juice from these went directly into the syrup. The only error we made was not putting in enough lemon juice - the pectin is needed to thicken the syrup.

With the syrup boiling, we added the fruit and left to boil for about an hour before bottling in sterilised jars.

The verdict - from a culinary lass who knows her makataan - is that our jam is superb. The fruit is crunchy with great texture and the taste is deliciously gingery. It is very tasty drizzled over vanilla icecream.


We made 13 jars, almost all of them have gone to new homes. I would definitely make it again.

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