Of all the things that Jerry Seinfeld said, the one I think about most often is: "Fruit is a gamble." No matter how diligent you are in choosing your produce, no matter how many articles you've read on picking the ripest, juiciest watermelon, sometimes you're just going to end up with a dud. If you get one or two mealy peaches in a basket, it's not fun, but usually you can salvage a few for snacking and use up the others in creative ways. But when you misjudge a watermelon, you're stuck with an enormous quantity of sub-par fruit.
Don't despair. Even if your watermelon isn't great for eating straight up, there are plenty of ways you can put it to use and avoid pitching the whole thing in the compost. Here are a few ways to get the best out of a not-great watermelon.
Easy never tasted so awesome.
Pickle the Rind
Even the mealiest, least appealing melon usually has a servicable rind. As long as the rind isn't rotten or soft, you can turn that part of the melon into quick pickles. Watermelon rind pickles are delicious, marrying the sweetness of the fruit with the tangy bite of a pickle. What's more is they aren't that tricky to make. Pretty much all you need, aside from the rind, is sugar, salt, water, and time. In the refrigerator they'll last a week or so, and make a perfect snack.
Make Agua Fresca
Super ripe melon is actually ideal for making agua fresca, so if you end up with one that's overripe and mealy, think about doing this first. To make melon agua fresca, put your melon in a blender with sugar, water, and lime juice, and blend until smooth. Add more cold water and lime juice or sugar to taste, and then chill it in a pitcher for a great afternoon pick-me-up.
Watch: The Easiest Way to Cut a Watermelon
Put It In a Pork Dish
Cooking watermelon isn't one of the first things you might think of—after all, it's so good raw—but when you have a mealy melon, consider making something like these Watermelon-Braised Pork Shoulder Steaks. Combining the subtle sweet flavor of watermelon with miso and mirin makes for a delicate play of sweet and savory that goes particularly well with pork shoulder, and having less-than-great melon dosen't matter as much when it's cooked down in the braising liquid.
Season It and Grill It
As long as your watermeelon isn't at the falling-apart stage (if it is, go back to agua fresca), you can enhance the flavor of a so-so melon a few ways. First, you could add some chile and lime and throw it onto the grill. The smokineess of the grill countereacts over-sweetness, and the chile and lime hide melon that's a bit mealy. Or, if you don't want to turn on the heat, just experiment with putting spice blends on your melon.
Another good use of overripe melon is turning it into cold watermelon soup, thanks to the aid of a blender and some herbs. Seasoned with a mild hot sauce like Tobasco, it makes for a lovely light appetizer or summer lunch. You won't even care that the melon you picked wasn't the best.
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