I look forward to summer for two reasons – softball and watermelon. Since eating a softball is frowned upon, I’m focusing on a few of the amazing ways you can enjoy watermelon. The first step is picking a good one. I look for a watermelon that is heavy for its size, more round than oblong, and that has a yellow bottom. Most times, I’m simple and eat my watermelon with just a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt (it really brings out the sweet flavor!), but I recently decided to buy a watermelon and prepare it four ways. Who knew watermelon was such a versatile fruit?
As a kid, my grandparents spent summers at Sebec Lake in Maine, and our favorite meal was shish kebob - meat and veggies marinated and grilled on skewers – and the best part were the bacon wrapped watermelon pickles. Yes. Watermelon Pickles. My grandmother always made sure to triple the recipe because you could never have enough. I learned as I got older that watermelon pickles are a commodity of sorts… they’re not always available, so you have to snag them when you can, or, your can follow the few easy steps below and make your own!
Pickled Watermelon Rind
¾ cup salt
3 quarts water
Combine salt and water to make a brine. Cut the rind off of the watermelon, removing just the dark green outer layer, and most of the pink flesh. I leave a little pink just because I think it makes the pickles look pretty. I find it easiest to quarter the melon and work with slices. Cut the rind into 2 inch pieces (or smaller if you prefer!). Make sure the brine covers the rind and leave soaking overnight.
After 8-12 hours, drain the rind, rinse with clean water, and drain again. Now it’s time to pickle – here’s what you’ll need:
4 pounds watermelon rind
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
4 cups sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 lemon, thinly sliced
In a medium pot, boil the vinegar, water, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and lemon. Boil for 5 minutes. Add the rind and cook until clear. Pack rinds into sterilized jars and cover with the syrup they were boiled in. Seal jars and enjoy all year round!
Watermelon Caprese Salad
After I got the rinds in the brine, I cubed up a quarter of the flesh (about 4 cups) for my Watermelon Caprese Salad. This super quick and easy salad is a delicious addition to any summer meal. You can even do half yellow watermelon for an even more beautiful presentation.
4 cups cubed watermelon
1 cup bocconcini (fresh mozzarella balls)
2 tbs basil
4 tbs olive oil
2 tbs jalapeno gold
Drizzle of Cream of Balsamic
Salt and pepper to taste
In medium bowl, mix together cubed watermelon and fresh mozzarella.
Chiffonade your fresh basil (roll the leaves like a cigar and slice into strands) and add to the bowl.
Mix in olive oil and jalapeno gold (my favorite item we sell at The Chopping Block).
Season to taste with salt and pepper and drizzle with Cream of Balsamic.
All this prep was making me thirsty, so I took the other ¾ of watermelon flesh I had left, and I pureed it in my blender. I took a Rosle sieve (they’re 20% off this month, by the way!) and strained the juice from the puree. I turned the juice into Watermelon Lime and Mint Agua Fresca with Smoked Maldon Salt, and the puree became the base for my Watermelon Barbecue Sauce – perfect for grilled chicken, ribs, or even tacos!
Watermelon Lime and Mint Agua Fresca with Smoked Maldon Salt
8 cups seedless watermelon, cut in large chunks
1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 limes, sliced
10 mint leaves, torn
1 tsp smoked Maldon sea salt
In two batches (unless you have a really big blender) puree the watermelon, strain puree through the sieve into a pitcher (reserve the pulp for my barbecue sauce recipe below). Add water, sugar, sliced limes, torn mint leaves, and smoked Maldon salt. Stir and add ice. I think this would be perfect with a little vodka or tequila added, too. Enjoy a tall glass while you man the grill and mop on some of my Watermelon BBQ Sauce!
Watermelon BBQ Sauce
1 1/2 cup watermelon puree (that has been run through a sieve)
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 balsamic vinegar
1/3 soy sauce
1/3 apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Jalapeno Gold
Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook on medium low heat for 2 hours until reduced to desired consistency. Enjoy with ribs, chicken, tacos or even grilled fruit!
I hope this has inspired you to look at all the possibilities that a watermelon offers!
If you’re looking for a way to use that Watermelon BBQ Sauce, be sure to check out our grilling classes, including Grilling Boot Camp at Lincoln Square on June 23rd and 24th and our Summer BBQ Bash on July 8th. The Summer BBQ Bash will be a family friendly event at Lincoln Square, so join us for a fun afternoon from 4pm-7pm as our chefs demo appetizers, meats, sides, salads, and desserts, including a Watermelon, Haloumi and Mint Skewer. You’ll have all the fun of a BBQ and leave the clean up to us! As a reminder, all tools are currently 20% off, so come in this June and grab that Rosle sieve. You’ll be sipping on Watermelon Agua Fresca in no time!