the watermelon saga continues

It wasn’t too long ago that I was dealing with an overabundance of watermelon. Today, I came upon another way to enjoy this summertime favorite. Looking for Popsicles in the freezer, I spotted a bag of frozen watermelon cubes. How long they’d been there, I don’t know as I’m not good about dating frozen foods (though I know it’s smart to do so). But I figured it was time to move the watermelon out. My girls are fans of the slushies (slurpies?) sold at convenience stores; this frozen fruit was my ticket to a slushie/slurpie I could feel good about them drinking.

The frozen watermelon cubes went into a plastic pitcher along with lemon juice, water, and a handful of sugar. I used my stick blender (love love love my stick blender) to puree, then played with water, lemon juice, and sugar amounts until the flavors balanced. I liked it ok, though neither of my daughters was overly excited about it. The texture was there, but the flavor seemed a bit flat. I let it go and stuck the pitcher away in the freezer.

Later in the day, it hit me that lime juice was exactly what the watermelon puree needed. That extra layer of citrus really made a difference–the flavors were brilliant. I’d bet that this watermelon slush would make a most excellent adult beverage mixed with vodka, rum, or gin. Tonight we kept it kid-friendly, though, and beat the heat with watermelon slushies/slurpies that were so much more than colored sugar water.

watermelon slush

pink sugar

I recently bought a huge watermelon (my girls made me do it 😉 ) and realized once home that there was no room in the refrigerator. Crammed full with farmers’ market produce and gifts of food from our neighbor, our fridge was no place for a 20-pound watermelon. What had I been thinking?

Figuring it would store more easily sliced, I cut wedges for supper and was ready to bag the rest. But as I slid slices into a large ziploc, I remembered our dehydrator.

Pre-kids, I used to dehydrate large quantities of Roma tomatoes. The seeding and slicing took time, but once the slices were on the dehydrator trays, it was a simple 24-hour wait for sweet tomato “chips.” I loved watching five-plus pounds of tomatoes shrink down to fit into a quart-size plastic bag and I could easily polish off this amount in one sitting (had the canker sores to prove it). Sweet and tangy, with just a slight chew, these tomatoes were worlds apart from the sun-dried tomatoes available in grocery stores. These dried tomatoes were pure gold.

Post-kids, the dehydrator comes out only once a summer or so and rarely for tomatoes. The prep is just too much. But drying watermelon is an easy task. I’ve enjoyed the results the few times I’ve tried it and realized that THIS was the answer to my storage problem.

The watermelon was sliced and laid on dehydrator trays that had been sprayed with cooking spray. (I learned the hard way that cooking spray makes for easier cleanup.) Fast forward 24 hours and I had amazing fruit leather-like watermelon chews. I prefer this homemade dried watermelon to the fresh stuff as it’s pure watermelon flavor–no water to dilute. The texture is slightly dry and slightly sticky; there’s a “chew” you won’t find in storebought fruit leathers. I gave a few slices to a colleague who loved it and gave me the title for this post. (Thanks, Megan!)

in the beginning

sliced and ready to dry

about 10 hours in

all dried up

watermelon leather

Postscript: My husband, like many men, enjoys tinkering. His “tinker” tonight was to put a slice of dried watermelon in the freezer. Five minutes later it was crispy and brittle–entirely different from what it was and very candy-like. I picture shards of frozen dried watermelon sprinkled over vanilla ice cream. Classy and fun.