28 July 2010

Making Watermelon Jam

In Sicily, summertime brings with it so many wonderful things. Hot weather, cool beaches, fresh gelato, vacation time and the biggest anguria (watermelon) you have ever seen. Now, those super huge melons are something we don’t often see anymore, as the smaller hybrids are what we usually see these days. Genetic modification with zucca (squash) plants, which makes a much smaller, more manageable sized melon has now pretty much overtaken the market. And really, how many one to two person households can consume a 15 pound melon anyway? Unfortunately, that cross breeding has annihilated the original, sweet flavor of watermelon. Do you ever buy a beautiful watermelon and think to yourself, this just doesn’t taste like it did when I was a kid? Well, that’s why.

Thankfully in Sicily, you can still find original, untainted watermelons. They have the other ones, too, and in the summertime it is cause for much discussion on how watermelons are ruined and it is increasingly difficult to find true anguria. But when you see those huge, torpedo shaped bombs of dark green splendor, you can be sure it’s a true watermelon. Of course, being a household of two, the question arises: what am I going to do with all this fruit? I cut mine in half, lengthwise, so the shallow half can fit in the fridge. Then I cut a half in half, making two quarters of about 3lbs each. Oh, the aroma is almost intoxicating—instantly bringing back memories of summer barbecues and seed spitting contests in the backyard.

I send the first quarter up to my mother-in-law and start melon-balling half of the second quarter into a huge watermelon salad with chopped mint and a splash of my mint-infused vodka. Wow. Soooo delicious and refreshing. Leo and I were stuffed with bellies full of sweet, pink water. But we only made a dent in the salad. Oh man, what were we going to do with all this watermelon?? I chop up some more of the quarter, pick out the seeds and blend it up to make watermelon popsicles.

Alright, four watermelon popsicles in the freezer, a bit left on my quarter piece, and still the other half in the fridge. That evening, watermelon mint cocktails… This is definitely a new favorite! Watermelon puree, mint infused vodka, and a garnish of fresh mint leaves. Yum.

Day two. 
For a mid-morning snack, we attempt to finish off the watermelon salad with some crispy toasts and a light goat cheese. A delightful combination; watermelon, mint and chevre are quite delicious together. But we still couldn’t finish the salad! It was a never-ending bowl of watermelon balls!

I found myself posing a familiar question: “What do people do with so much fruit?” You may remember this question from my earlier post “Making Jam”. Ah, yes, jam… I do a little internet research to see if you can make jam from watermelon, as it is pretty much water. I actually find several recipes and very good comments on the outcome. Perfect! Now I can definitely get rid of the rest of that watermelon, and as a jelly it can preserve that amazing flavor all year long. So I start the chopping…the seed removing…the chopping…the seed removing…

45 minutes later, I’m standing in front of a scale that reads 1 kilo. I look at my piece of watermelon. I barely made a dent!!! Definitely need to make 2 kilos. So I start the chopping… the seed removing… the chopping…the seed removing… And I finally make it to two kilos. 

I boil the jars and lids... And start makin' jam!

Over an hour of bubbling, boiling, spattering...I filled the first jar and waited a bit. But it seemed too watery, so back it went, as I boiled some more and then threw in a bit of my mint vodka. It seems as though the little bit of alcohol really helped it to set up, not to mention it brightened up the flavor quite a bit!

After all was said and done, I had six jars of jam and still a quarter of that watermelon left!
Day three. 
Finally attempting to use up the last of the watermelon, I made some more of my watermelon mint cocktails.  Cin cin!


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