Saturday, September 11, 2010

Watermelon Pâte aux Fruit and Melon Pops

There are two types of people in this world- those who salt their watermelon and those who don’t.

I was raised believing that salting watermelon complements the natural flavor. I’ve never challenged that belief and see no reason to. For me, salt and watermelon go together like peas and carrots. I just assumed that the rest of the world ate their watermelon salted as well so color me shocked when my own husband told me he thought salted watermelon was gross. Now, I tend to make allowances for his occasional strange behaviors because he had somewhat of a nomadic childhood, parts of which were spent outside of the South, so maybe he just didn’t learn the usual customs that I take as gospel. I laughed it off as another of his charming peccadilloes. Mostly, I felt sorry that no one introduced him to this delicacy as a child and that he would now, as an adult and of his own accord, pass up the opportunity to taste the divineness of a piece of freshly sliced, succulent, chilled watermelon with a light sprinkling of salt.

I had no idea salting watermelon was such a controversial subject until I Googled it and saw the back and forth on multiple forums. The Kitchn even did a readers poll on salting watermelon- yes's out ranked no's but almost as many people had never even heard of putting salt on watermelon. It’s saddens me that such deprivation exists in the world. A few survey respondents even relegated the idea that salt complements the flavor of watermelon to just another crazy Southern notion. Fortunately, other respondents came to the South’s defense to point out that salting many varieties of melon (or pairing with salty foods) is common practice in other countries and cultures, as well. After all, we have Italians to thank for introducing us to the delectable prosciutto and melon salad. After further research, I found that WikiAnswers confirmed that salt enhances the flavor of watermelon by opening up the taste buds to the sweetness of the fruit. 


As far as I’m concerned, the argument can be laid to rest - salted watermelon is best!

Watermelon Pâte aux Fruit and Melon Pops

Because I can never walk past a watermelon in high season without picking it up, and due to the fact that I’m the sole melon eater in our household, I tend to have an over abundance of the cloyingly juicy fruit around during the hot summer months. This year I decided to get creative and use up the melon remnants taking up precious real estate in the fridge so I made watermelon pâte aux fruit and melon pops (watermelon juice popsicles). The pâte aux fruit were a success, the melon pops, not so much. For the melon pops, my husband introduced me to the homemade way of making popsicles. As kids, when their parents refused to buy them popsicles at the grocery store, he and his brother got inventive and concocted homemade popsicles from Kool-aid. Small wonder both of them went to culinary school as adults. I describe his method below.

1. Extract the juice for both the pâte aux fruit and melon pops by cutting watermelon off the rind and pureeing it with the seeds. (I read that the seeds add an integral part of the desired flavor to watermelon juice and that it tends to taste too watery if the seeds are left out).
2. To make pâte aux fruit, see the recipe here and sub watermelon juice. I didn’t add salt to the watermelon juice I used for the pâte aux fruit, but when I dipped the jelly squares in sugar to coat, I added a bit of salt to the sugar.
3. For the pops, I recommend adding a simple sugar syrup to the fruit juice to help homogenize the liquid. The liquid in the pops I made with pure watermelon juice separated before freezing. To make a simple syrup, add a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water to a small sauce pan and bring to just a boil to combine. Allow to cool before using.
4. Add 2 parts lightly salted watermelon juice to one part simple syrup, stir to combine and pour into small disposable cups. Place the cups in a small baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. (The plastic stabilizes the sticks so that they remain upright in the pop when freezing.) Use a sharp knife tip to poke small holes in the plastic wrap and insert whatever is to be used as the popsicle stick. I used wooden coffee stirrers I cut to shorten the length. Wooden tongue depressors would work well also.
5. Place the baking pan in freezer to allow the pops to set up.

8 comments:

  1. I don't salt my watermelon, but a salad with watermelon and (salty) feta is so divine!

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  2. I keep hearing about melon and feta combos- must be a sign that I need to try it. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. My Dad taught me to salt watermelon, so I definitely get it! Last year, I discovered the wonders of sauteed halloumi with watermelon and mint. Love it.

    I've made pate aux fruits once, and they were very sticky. Not sure if that was due to humidity or the type of juice? Yours look perfect.

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  4. @Lisa- That sounds delicious! And you're on to something about the type of juice. These pate aux fruit were more gummy and sticker than the strawberry ones I made previously. I think skinned fruits work better.

    I'm looking for a pate recipe that has a higher juice to sugar/pectin ratio. These pate are so sugar laden, you can't taste the fruit flavor as much as I'd like. Maybe I'll just tinker with this recipe a bit...

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  5. Okay, I've never even heard of salting watermelon (but when you make the prosciutto and melon argument it makes sense)... wow, what I've missed gowing up in the mid-atlantic.

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  6. @ Ellen It's never too late to convert, especially now that you've taken up residence in the heart of the South. I'm sure you'll be introduced to all kinds of delicacies! Have you tried red pepper jelly on a Ritz cracker yet? Just wait till the holiday season in ATL!

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  7. Found your post through foodgawker. The pate aux fruit look gorgeous! :)

    Salt + watermelon is definitely the way to go! I'm Vietnamese, and we dip our watermleon, nectarines and guava in salt (and often chili pepper with the guava). I'm so glad I grew up accustomed to eating fruit and salt together, otherwise today I'd probably think (like everyone else) that the pairing is simply bizarre. What a shame that would be. Nevertheless, I had the same reaction as you when I found out (mostly from peers in high school) this wasn't a commonly approved pairing of food.

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  8. @Kimandthi Cool blog! I love that you're sisters sharing your love of cooking. Chili pepper and guava sounds like a combo I need to try.

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