With the coming of Spring, the warmer season fruits have started appearing (yes, there was a cold snap in Australia which means that as well as bananas, peaches and apricots are now mind-bogglingly expensive at supermarkets, but still somewhat affordable at markets) and one of those fruits is the humble watermelon.
There is a bit of intuition required when purchasing watermelons as sometimes the regular tests don’t work. The way I have always watermelons for purchase is via a 4-step test – first the colour test – check the belly of the fruit, it should be creamy yellow not light green. Then, the weight test – ‘eyeball’ the fruit and feel how heavy it is in your hands, you want one that feels quite weighty for it’s size. Thirdly, the sniff test (which I honestly use before purchasing most fruit) – smell the navel of the fruit (where the stem has been broken off) and sniff for sweetness. The last test only applies to fruit which has already been cut in half and wrapped in plastic – the press test. This is similar to testing for an avocado in that you press down lightly in the middle of the fruit. It should show a little resistance but eventually crunch and make a juicy little indent. Yes, I know that this isn’t good for the fruit vendor, but as watermelon doesn’t ripen after being cut off the vine, being stuck with 3kg of unripe watermelon isn’t very ideal as it cannot be baked to concentrate the flavour.
The sweetest watermelons are grown during long, hot seasons, which may be part of why I associate them with summer refreshment. Their scent, the crunch of their flesh and the sticky juice dribbling down your chin are all things that I adore and which are deeply entrenched in my mind as part what I like about summer. This is also why I crave watermelon on sad and cloudy days when I’m just wishing for a ray of sunshine.
We may be in the middle of spring, but grey and cloudy days are still regular visitors
Earlier last week I had purchased a large 2kg half of a watermelon (after putting it through the tests of course) and raced it home so that I could slice into it and taste a little summer. However, after taking my first bite I realized that my test had failed – the watermelon was underripe, and tasted very diluted with virtually no sweetness. After such an anticlimax, I wrapped up the rest of the melon and put it in the fridge where it say for a few days. I wondered what I should do with the fruit – not quite in the mood for a granita, I wanted something that would give me pure watermelon pleasure that I could feast on straight away and use to imagine a balmy summer breeze.
After pondering this for awhile and not coming to any answers, I decided “Ahhh, sod it!” and threw the lot in the juicer (I know, some of you are thinking ‘Well DUH’. All I can say is that I like taking the scenic route – both in real life and inside my head! Hehehe!). My juicer is about 14 years old and still works perfectly, however it is old technology so produces that icky foam as well as letting through a lot of sediment into the juice. As my usual juice is carrot and apple, I don’t usually mind because it’s nothing that I wouldn’t normally eat, but the little specs of black seeds suspended in the watermelon juice didn’t have me too enthused about taking a sip.
And yes, I know that watermelon seeds can’t really sprout in your stomach and send shoots growing out of your mouth and ears. I’m also aware that a watermelon can’t grow in your stomach, becoming so big that it makes you explode. However, these are childhood fears and they’re not gotten rid of so easily! *sob*
Right, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system – the juice!
Looks good, ey? But wondering where the foam and sediment went?
I was stuck with a jug of watermelon juice that was almost as unappetising as the watermelon itself was, which meant that my problem had not yet been solved. The first issue that had to be resolved was the 2-inch layer of foam that was sitting at the top, but most of that was easily removed with a spoon. However, the seeds were a bigger problem as they had been chopped into small enough bits that scooping them out with a spoon would be nigh impossible. I pulled out my trusty kitchen fine sieve and started straining the juice.
About 20 minutes later, I had a foam, seed and sediment-free juice, but a taste test revealed that whilst it had concentrated the watermelon flavour (by getting rid of as many fleshy chunks as possible, it means that you get more actual watermelon juice in each sip) it was still not very sweet. At this point, I was starting to become a little impatient – I wanted my watermelon drink and I wanted it now, but I was not going to settle for anything that would not leave me satisfied. Sooo, I made a sugar syrup and added that to the jug. FINALLY! It was drinkable and almost as satisfying as having a real watermelon!
I think this is a great way to salvage untasty watermelon, but it’d be a wonderful drink to serve during summer barbeques – by adding a little vodka or champagne you’d have a more ‘adult’ version of the drink. Also, when drinking this I thought that infusing just a little mint before drinking would add a little more depth to the flavour – if you wanted to get fancy, that is 😉 Make sure you raise a toast when drinking with more than one person, as sunlight streaming through the dark pink juice is just gorgeous and an instant mood pep!
This is a beautifully simple (despite my fumbling) and refreshing drink, and since strained of sediment, would keep a few days in the fridge to provide a glass of summer now and then 🙂
Ingredients (makes roughly 1.5 Litres)
2kg of watermelon flesh (from a 3kg fruit)
a sprig of mint
*Optional – champagne or vodka to serve
1. Run the watermelon flesh though a juicer (and you really do need a mechanical juicer for this), then run the flesh through a fine sieve to collect all the ‘bits’. You’ll need keep mixing the juice inside the strainer as the small fruit chunks will block the holes and prevent the juice from trickling out.
2. Pour the watermelon juice inside a jug and place mint inside to infuse, and put jug in fridge to chill.
3. Meanwhile, heat the water in a small saucepan and gradually add the sugar till it is all dissolved. As soon as it has dissolved, pour into a smaller jug and cool.
4. Once the sugar syrup has cooled, slowly add it to the watermelon juice, making sure to stir well after each addition and taste before adding any more. Once it has reached ideal sweetness, place back in fridge till chilled and it is ready to drink!
* If you’re wanting something more alcoholic, then add 1 shot of vodka to each glass before adding the watermelon juice, or fill glass half with champagne and half with juice if bubbly’s more your thing 🙂
[tags]watermelon, juice, cocktails, recipe, mint[/tags]