I had a dream last night. I dreamt that I was wandering about a watermelon patch, knee deep in winding vines and leaves with the earthy aroma of sweet vine ripened watermelons wafting about the air. I reached down to run my hand over the smooth surface of a melon, rolling my fingertips down along the sides of its cool and ethereally smooth exterior until it suddenly cracked open with a snap, revealing a deep crimson flesh beautifully speckled with little black seeds. Without even tasting it, I could tell the melon was ripe, its juices running down its interior before pooling beneath its rind. Just as I reached into the melon to retrieve a sweet, firm piece of melon to sweeten my tongue, I suddenly heard a ringing in the distance. The ringing increased in volume by the second until it reached a loud rhythmic blare. Ah, yes, it was the ever-dreaded alarm clock to shake me from my dream and jolt me back to reality.
Needless to say, I awoke with a hankering for sweet watermelon, and off to the farmer’s market I went to retrieve a beautiful melon for myself. I promised you all recipes that were conducive to the summer months, ones that would satiate the most demanding of palates and ones that would epitomize the beautiful season of summer. My word is my bond, and so, as promised, I bring you this recipe for a gorgeous red drink that is sure to stave off your summer-time thirst and refresh your palate.
This cooler is a lemonade of sorts combining watermelon, lemon, mint and even cucumber to create a refreshing and filling drink that was made for summer meals and hot days in the sun. The lemon adds a splash of tang and the cucumber provides a wonderful (and much needed) cooling effect on your body and makes this cooler unbelievably refreshing and even healthy! Mint is classically paired with watermelon, so why mess with tradition. The drink itself is not overly sweetened with sugar since the watermelon – if it is ripe and fresh – will naturally sweeten it.
Watermelons are available at your local farmer’s market during the summer months. There’s a lovely farm about 5 minutes away from us that has trucks upon trucks of delicious watermelon. On a daily basis, legions of locals will flock to the market to retrieve beautiful green watermelons which are sure to be gobbled up within minutes of slicing!
Tips for Selecting a Perfectly Ripe and Sweet Melon: When shopping for watermelon, look for a melon that is free of dents, bruises, and cuts. If the underside of the melon has a yellow or light bottom, it should be perfectly ripe. If distinct stripes are found all around the melon, that indicates that they’re not ripe and sweet. You’ll often find people tapping a watermelon as they put it up to their ear. You’ll want to do that to check for signs of hollowness. If the melon sounds hollow when tapped, it means it’s fresh and ripe! Lastly, your watermelon should be heavy for its size. Watermelons have a very high water content so a ripe, sweet melon should be heavy and dense. Before cutting, wash watermelons with soap and water so dirt on the rind doesn’t get into into the flesh. You can refrigerate cut watermelon in a sealed container for up to one week. Uncut watermelons can be stored at room temperature up to two weeks before they start to spoil.
The watermelon truly defines summer for most of us and is enjoyed in recipes as much as it is on its own, so, don’t be surprised if you find it popping up in recipes everywhere this summer!
You want to ensure that your mixture is pureed in the blender very finely. That will ensure the mint is fully infused into the mixture and will make for easy work when you move on to straining the mixture.
Taste the mixture before adding the simple syrup and slowly pour in the syrup in intervals until you reach the desired sweetness. Every watermelon is different in its level of sweetness, so if you were lucky enough to find a perfectly sweet and ripe melon, you may only need to add half (or none) of the simple syrup.
Watermelon Mint Cooler
2.5 lbs watermelon, cubed (about half of a medium watermelon)
1 cup (250 ml or 8 ounces) lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 6 lemons)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cucumber, skin removed and diced
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup (62 ml) hot water
2 cups (500 ml) cold water
Lemon wedges and wheels, for garnish (optional)
Watermelon wedges (small), for garnish (optional)
Mint sprigs, for garnish (optional)
To prepare the simple syrup, in a small bowl, mix the sugar in hot water. Set aside for a few minutes for allow the sugar to dissolve then continue mixing until the liquid runs clear and is free of solid sugar crystals.
In a blender, combine the cubed watermelon, mint leaves, and chopped cucumber. Puree for 2-3 minutes until finely pureed. Strain the mixture over a large pitcher through a medium sieve (using a fine sieve will cause the flesh of the watermelon to clog up the openings and not allow the liquid to run through). Discard the pulp that remains on top of the sieve. Add the lemon juice to the pitcher and combine. Add the 2 cups of cold water and stir to combine.*
Taste the mixture before adding the simple syrup to control the amount of sweetness (the melon itself is quite sweet so you may not need to add all of the simple syrup). Drop the lemon wheels into the pitcher for garnish. Serve over ice, garnished with the mint sprig, lemon wedge or watermelon wedge. [*Note: to create a slushy, simply add 1 cup of ice to 1 1/2 cups of cold water (reduce the cold water from 2 cups to 1 1/2 cups) and then add it to the watermelon mixture in the pitcher – serve immediately]