Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ways with the Watermelon

I'm back to blogging again after a wonderful 4th of July break. My husband took the kids to see his parents, so I was home all alone over the holiday weekend, and then Curtis' parents kept the boys for a few more days. It was a nice, restful break, and I was able to use the time to finish some projects that I had been aching to do. I'll post those next time.

This summer, I have been loving watermelon! It's really not summer (at least in the South) without letting watermelon juice drip down your chin at least once! I bought a big 'ole watermelon last week in hopes of sharing it with the family. But while my family was gone, I worked on a painting project in the garage; and after a long, hot day, I decided to break open the watermelon! So what is one single person to do with a watermelon meant for 6 people? Well, eat it, of course. But since I had time to experiment, I tried new things with my lovely melon.

The first thing I did was make caramelized watermelon slices. To do this, you cut the watermelon in wedges and coat with sugar and then sautee until caramelized in a pan. I try my hardest not to eat refined sugar, so I did not coat it with the granulated sugar. Instead, I put a little raw honey on each side and then browned it. It never actually caramelized, and I think it probably would have been better just browned without anything on it at all. But eating hot watermelon was an interesting experience for me. It doesn't really taste like watermelon at all, but it is still quite delicious. I think if it was spiced up a little and served with other fruit, it would make a lovely dessert. So, I am going to keep experimenting with this one. I think it has great potential.
(caramelized watermelon slices)

The second thing I did with the watermelon was make pickled watermelon rind. The end product turned out great, but the process was somewhat messy. I followed a recipe I found very loosely, as the recipe called for adding 8 CUPS of white sugar to a 3 quart mixture!! I wonder if they were making pickles or candy! :) So, I cut the sugar down to about 3 cups, and I used sucanat instead of white sugar. I also substituted apple cider vinegar for the white vinegar called for in the recipe. (I will have to say, however, that you have to boil the ACV, and my house smelled very strongly of vinegar for a whole day afterward!) While I don't recall ever having pickled watermelon rind before, I would assume by the recipe that it is intended to be more of a dessert or candied pickle than a tart pickle. But with the modifications I made, I'm happy to say that they turned into a fabulously sweet and tart pickle that tastes just like a sweet gherkin. I am very happy with the results, and I chopped some of them up last night to put in a tuna salad, and even my pickiest eaters couldn't tell it wasn't a traditional pickle. You may be wondering, "Why go to all the effort to make pickled rind when you can just go buy a sweet gherkin at the store?" My motivation was twofold: first, I love to learn new things and have new challenges. Second, the idea behind it is to waste less and make the most use out of every part of your food. I think this is a lost art in our society today, and I want to rediscover stewardship of food.

(this is the rind after it has been peeled)

(the finished product. the recipe yielded 3 quart jars)

Here's my recipe for pickled watermelon rind:

  • 4 quarts of watermelon rind, peeled with all red flesh removed
  • Sprinkle 3/4 cup of salt over the rind and cover with water. Let sit in the fridge overnight.
  • On the next day, drain and lightly rinse the rind. Cover with fresh water, and boil until the rind starts to get soft. Remove from the heat and drain.
  • In a large pot, bring about 1 quart of ACV, 3-4 cups of sucanat, 5 cinnamon sticks, 2 Tblsp. whole cloves, and 1 tsp mustard powder to a boil. Continue to boil for a few minutes until the mixture is a little more syrupy. Add the rind, and boil until the rind is clear and soft.
  • Spoon the pickles and syrup into sterilized jars, and process in a water bath.
I also made wonderful smoothies with the watermelon. I put chunks of the melon into the freezer until they were icy but not frozen solid. I then pureed the chunks along with some peeled peaches from the farmer's market, the juice of one lime, and some stevia. They made wonderful smoothies, and even my super picky two year old partook of the yumminess.

I want to end this post with a picture of my refrigerator (above). At the farmer's market yesterday, there were so many different varieties of zucchini and squash, and they were super cheap, so I stocked up on them (the picture above is about half of it). And then my mother in law brought me 3 HUGE summer squash from her friend's farm. So, now I'm in desperate need of some creative ideas for serving them this week. If you have any ideas--they need to be milk free since my kids are allergic--I would love some help so we don't end up eating grilled squash every day!