Jeff hates watermelon. With a passion. Which made this last category in the Baker Creek A-Z project daunting. But lo and behold, in Didi Emmons' 1997 Vegetarian Planet there appears a recipe for gazpacho in which watermelon is used instead of tomato. And you know what? Jeff actually liked this, in fact (he sheepishly admits) more so than the traditional version. Who would have thought? Do give our adaptation a try and be sure to consume it all within a day or two as it tastes best when fresh.
9 cups watermelon flesh, seeded
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
½ cup flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
2 slices dry white bread, crushed into crumbs
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Place watermelon, green and red bell peppers, jalapeno, onion, garlic, cucumber, and parsley into a large bowl and puree until smooth using an immersion blender. Mix in the bread crumbs, vinegar, olive oil, salt, cayenne, and black pepper. Chill soup for at least 30 minutes before serving. This will taste best the day you make it.
Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle
Received from a Friend Called Felicity
John Tobias, 1961, New Mexico Quarterly
During that summer
When unicorns were still possible;
When the purpose of knees
Was to be skinned;
When shiny horse chestnuts
Fitted with straws
Crammed with tobacco
Stolen from butts
In family ashtrays)
Were puffed in green lizard silence
While straddling thick branches
Far above and away
From the softening effects
During that summer--
Which may never have been at all;
But which has become more real
Than the one that was--
Thick imperial slices
Melting frigidly on sun-parched tongues
Dribbling from chins;
Leaving the best part,
The black bullet seeds,
To be spit out in rapid fire
Against the wall
Against the wind
Against each other;
And when the ammunition was spent,
There was always another bite:
It was a summer of limitless bites,
Of hungers quickly felt
And quickly forgotten
With the next careless gorging.
The bites are fewer now.
Each one is savored lingeringly,
But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.
Back in the day when people refused to waste anything, a pickle was commonly made from leftover watermelon rinds. This simple example of frugality has almost passed into oblivion, which is too bad, as this sweet/sour and mildly spicy pickle is a great accompaniment to meals eaten on hot summer evenings on a shady porch. Follow this easy recipe adapted from Jeanne Lesem’s 1992 Preserving in Today's Kitchen (ISBN 978-0805048810) and you can – like Felicity – make memories that will last a lifetime.
3 quarts water
1/3 cup sea salt
8 heaping cups watermelon rind, washed and cut into 1x3” strips
4 cups sugar
2 cups wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon (about 10 drops) clove oil
1/8 teaspoon (about 10 drops) cinnamon oil
Dissolve salt in water. Pack prepared watermelon rind into a 1 gallon container and pour brine over the top. Place a weighted plate over the top to keep all of the rind submersed. If there is not enough brine, make more using 1 tablespoon of salt to each 2 cups water. Let stand 24 hours in a cool, dark place.
Drain the rind, rinse in cold water, and drain again. Place in a large pot and cover with boiling water. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10-20 minutes until the rind is easily pierced with a toothpick. Remove from heat and drain. Place back into the 1 gallon container.
Make the pickling syrup by dissolving the sugar into the vinegar. Add the clove and cinnamon oil, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour syrup over the drained, cooked rind. Place a weighted plate over the top to keep all of the rind submersed. Let sit 2 days.
Drain the rind pieces, reserving the syrup. Loosely pack the rind into canning jars, top with the syrup to within ¼” of the rim, and seal. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Let rest for at least 2 weeks before eating.