28 June 2011

No...I Want It All

I was called a punk ass bitch today for not posting, so whenever I decide to take over a month to not write anything, you know how to motivate me.

I like fruit. My brother likes fruit. He once was punched in the face for calling a guy "the pussy of fruit" after the guy wouldn't let him skate on his quarter pipe: it being a known fact that the guy hated fruit and would freak out if you approached him with a red delicious arm outstretched. Independent of my brother's misfortune, as an 11-year-old (and a 32-year-old), I found it one of the funniest things that my brother has called someone. It also made me think about the quarter pipe owner. The guy really was the pussy of fruit. I mean seriously, how do you not like juicy, sweet, ripe fruit in your mouth?

I can understand not liking some fruit. My mom sent me to school with a persimmon once. I didn't really like it, but when it's one of the only things you have in your lunch, you eat it knowing full well that the only thing to snack on when you get home are more persimmons--might as well eat it now and hope the ones at home disappear. I was questioned about what kind of fruit is was by some classmates and was promptly called a weird fruit. "You know why he likes weird fruit? Because he's a weird fruit!" Clever, am I right? At least I didn't get called "strange fruit." Although the kid was more or less right about my character, I would've rather my mom had packed one of those tiny dwarf bananas or better yet, some kind of regular American looking fruit like some watermelon.

Nowadays though, I seldom buy melons because I hadn't known how to pick out a good one for a long time. Even following the conventional steps of choosing a watermelon--listen for a hollow, heavy for its size melon with a yellow or light bottom--I'll still get suckered by a 60% usable melon. You can probably get around this by just buying a smallish one in the midst of the summer from the farmer's market, but have I mentioned how frugal I am about buying food?

About...let's make it two weeks ago, I was at the discount grocer with a friend and bought an 11 lb. seedless watermelon. It was huge and likely to be mealy in that inner ring where the seeds normally are, but I'd been having ideas about watermelon, and $2.99 was the right price for making uncertain food.

Sure enough, it had that mealy dry ring from being too old or improperly stored. Unlike an apple that you can still cook to release the flavor and moisture, I was sceptical about cooking a watermelon.

I really needed something refreshing to chill me out from recent 100 degree weather. With sorbet requiring time and an ice cream maker, which I'd have to borrow from someone, clean, and return, fruit water sounded the more immediate remedy.

After cutting out the still firm center and outer parts of the watermelon, I was left with about 4 lbs. of melon mush. I tossed it into the blender with about a cup of water, and a quarter cup of fructose. Why the fructose? The co-op ran out of sugar in their bulk bins, so that's what I was left with. I guess it sort of doesn't taste as sweet as regular refined sugar, but it's been working out in all the things I've been using it in.

Once liquefied, I strained it through a sieve and added a quarter cup of Meyer lemon juice. Poured into a glass and spritzed with seltzer, I garnished it with a lemon wedge for the fruitiness. My spirits were so lifted that I sung out in German song.

It made a 2 quart pitcher without the seltzer, and it's also good after the morning run when I don't feel like eating anything but know I have to before I start work.

The following day I packed up the choice middle cuts for a camping trip that ended up getting water logged in the cooler. "Waaahhh..."

Good thing I thought ahead and pickled the rest before leaving. I did two different pickles. The ones below are from a Saveur recipe for Russian pickled watermelon that I'd been eager to use. I don't know how Russian this actually is, so one of my Russian friends will have to chime in here.

The other, I'd been wanting to do even longer: pickled watermelon rind.

After gleaning several Southern recipes online, I prepared them as follows:

Boiled the peeled rinds until tender.

While that boiled, 3 c. fructose, 2 c. apple cider vinegar, 3 cloves, and 1 cinnamon stick are combined and heated until the fructose dissolved.

The sugar-vinegar mixture is then poured over the tender rinds and refrigamated for a week.

The two pickles were both pretty nice but very strongly flavored by the other ingredients. Casual snacking was a bit out of the question for the pickled rinds. Less fructose/sugar might solve that problem though.

Both would work well as ingredients to a salad, and the pickled rind spurred thought about a watermelon rind pie, as it had the texture of a cooked rhubarb and lends itself to other flavors really well.

If I make the pickled watermelon again, I'd cut back on the garlic and bump up the cayenne to suit my own tastes better.

Having now used the entire melon, the next time I'm in the market and I see that watermelon eyeballin' me, Imma lookit it square and let it know that I will have it--I'm gonna have the whole thing. That goes for you weird fruits too.