When the watermelon turns to mush,
make granita! That’s what we’ve been doing at our house, anyway, and it’s keeping the end-of-summer doldrums at bay. For now, anyway. It isn’t that we’re sad to see the change in weather, or the start of school, or new work routines; beginnings are usually exciting to all of us. But they also inevitably mean the endings to other things, and summer, for our little family, is a season we are sad to leave. It affords us the time and space to be together that just isn’t possible during the busy schoolyear, and we relish the long days and later-than-usual nights spent at the park, the water fountain downtown, or just walking in our neighborhood.
We will also be sad when the watermelons are no longer lined up in neat rows beside Mr. Buddy’s Plantation Pecan table at the Farmer’s Market. Josie loves to bend down and touch each round green fruit, until she finds just the right one for us to take home. A whole watermelon goes a long way for just three people, and sometimes, despite our best intentions, we end up with a tupperware container full of cubes that have lost their freshness.
I am happy to report, however, that we do not have to say goodbye to the mushy watermelon when it’s no longer fit for eating plain; this recipe is just the thing to transform past-its-prime mush into summer deliciousness. It also does a number on a melon that, even fresh, is just so-so (which happens sometimes when you let a two-year-old pick the one you take home).
The granita is so simple — just watermelon, lime juice, mint, and a little sugar — but it is a really fun thing to have stashed in the freezer. The mint and lime boost the watermelon flavor with a hint of contrast, and you can add as much or as little sugar as the melon needs, or to suit your taste. You could freeze the mixture in popsicle molds if you have them, but plain old ice trays and a metal baking pan worked just fine too.
We try not to keep junk food in the house, and we often have plain, fresh fruit for dessert, which usually suits us all just fine (well, except for David, who really needs chocolate after dinner to thrive). It is so nice to have a special treat, though, especially for those two-year-old moments, the ones where she’s demanding something completely absurd with all of the drama she can muster (you know, like, “Go go library RIGHT NOW,” when the library, is in fact, closed). Watermelon popsicles make a nice bartering chip. And, a bonus? The ice cubes are also heavenly when placed in a glass with club soda and coconut rum. You know, in case you need to barter with someone older than two.
I can’t believe it, but this week marks the four-year anniversary of this little site. I also can’t believe that I started this blog the exact same week I began a Ph.D. program (did I really think I would need to find something else to do?!) At any rate, I’m grateful to have this record of our time here and a little history of how I’ve grown as a cook. Most of all, though, I’m thankful that this space has brought so many friends, old and new, together over these last years. Many, many thanks to all of you who’ve visited, commented, and cooked from the recipes here; it has brought me much joy to have fellow food-lovers to share my cooking adventures with. When life gives you mushy or mediocre watermelon, may you always find a way to make granita. In our household, we think that can make all the difference.
Half a medium-sized seedless watermelon, flesh cut into chunks (about 12 cups of loosely packed chunks, yielded about 8 cups of juice)
Juice of 3 limes
handful of mint
about a 1/2 cup sugar (this completely depends on the flavor of the melon)
Dash of salt
In a blender, puree the watermelon chunks in batches. As you finish one blender-full, pour the juice into a 9 x 13 metal baking pan. On the last go-round, add the lime juice, mint, sugar (start with about 1/3 cup), and salt. Stir this batch thoroughly into the pan of juice. Taste. If you need more sugar or lime, transfer a little juice back to the blender to adjust. Continue until it tastes like you’d like to drink it straight, on the rocks (which I highly recommend, especially if you happen to have coconut rum to add). Once you’ve got the taste as you like it, pour off enough juice so that the baking pan is no more than 2/3 full, less if you want it to freeze more quickly.* Place in the freezer, uncovered. Stir every half-hour or so for the first couple of hours, then freeze solid (this takes about 3 hours, but we never make it that long; ours is always a little slushy). Scrape out with a spoon to serve.
*The extras make fun popsicles if you have some spare small plastic or paper cups: just fill, cover with foil, and poke a wooden stick in the center. I made tiny ones for Josie in a plain old ice cube tray (without the sticks).