It looks like today could be the last 80°F day of the season in my area, so it’s the best time to enjoy a refreshing, cold, fruity dessert. Watermelon are still available in the local markets, and homegrown ones are still ripening on the vine. They won’t last much longer in the shops or the greenhouse.
Melons may not be the first fruits you think of when you consider a dessert; apples, strawberries, raspberries, and huckleberries are all more likely candidates. But melons have the advantage of pairing their natural sweetness with a satisfyingly slurpy moisture, making them ideal for refreshing desserts. Throw in some fresh herbs for bright, contrasting notes, and you’ll successfully capture the feel of summer in a bowl or glass. Better yet, your freezer and refrigerator will let you hold onto that feeling long after temperatures have dropped.
Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You need just 3 main ingredients plus a little lemon juice and alcohol.
1. Puree the all the ingredients.
2. Freeze in a flat pan, stirring occasionally.
3. Puree again, refreeze, and enjoy.
1/2 cup granulated or raw cane sugar
2 teaspoons fresh minced mint
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons gin or vodka
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
Cut the melon flesh from its rind, saving the rind for pickling if desired, and chop it coarsely. Place the fruit in a large bowl and puree using an immersion blender, or put the fruit into a food processor or upright blender to puree. Add the sugar, herbs, and lemon juice. Stir to combine, and then puree again, until smooth. Taste and adjust the sweetener and herb as needed. Stir in the alcohol and salt.
Pour the puree into a shallow pan, such as a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap, and freeze for 4–8 hours. During that time, occasionally remove the puree from the freezer, quickly stir it with a fork until it forms pebble-sized chunks, and then return it to the freezer. When the mixture is nearly or fully frozen, pour it into the bowl, food processor, or upright blender and puree again to smooth out the sorbet. Refreeze the sorbet in a bowl or other container for at least 1 hour before serving, or transfer it to a freezer-proof container for longer storage. Makes about 1 quart.
Tips & Tricks
- If you’re already making Raw Fruit Sorbet, you’ll find the instructions here subtly different from that master recipe. Watermelon has so much natural liquid that no additional water is needed; you may even prefer to siphon off some of the juice for another use (see below). I enhance the melon’s natural sweetness with the minimum amount of sugar and a healthy dose of mint.
- You can change the sweetener in this sorbet, but I prefer a neutral sugar to a flavor-imparting one like turbinado sugar or honey. Watermelon has enough natural sweetness that I use less sugar than with some other fruits, but the sweetness of each melon can vary, so adjust the sweetener by taste for each batch.
- Many sorbet recipes call for high-fructose corn syrup to break down the crystallization, but a dash of alcohol gives the same effect without adding unneeded liquid, altering the flavor, or making anyone tipsy..
- If you have an ice cream maker, you can chill the sorbet for either 1 hour in the freezer or overnight in the fridge and then process it according to the directions for your machine for 25–30 minutes. But don’t stress if you don’t have one; the technique given here smooths out the sorbet nicely.
Twice as Tasty
When I bite into a slice of juicy watermelon, I always think it seems more like a beverage than a fruit as the juice tries to run down my arms. So it’s probably no surprise that I quickly found ways to enjoy it from a glass. By choosing a larger melon, I’ve found several ways to prep both beverages and dessert in one go. The sorbet itself can become a drink: Reblend 3/4–1 cup of sorbet with 2 ounces of orange juice and you have a quick fruit smoothie; swap some or all of the OJ for white rum, perhaps adding a splash of Homemade Orange Liqueur), and enjoy a watermelon daquiri.
You can also turn some of watermelon’s natural water into its own beverage with a separate set of flavors. Watermelon sorbet freezes more solidly and more quickly if you strain off some of its juice. To do this, puree all of the flesh from a larger watermelon and then pour it through a cheesecloth-lined colander set over a large bowl. Weigh out a pound of the watermelon solids for each batch of sorbet, pouring back in as much juice as needed to get the appropriate weight. Enjoy the remaining juice as is or turn it into a shrub concentrate to mix with seltzer or as a cocktail.
But it gets even better—the watermelon rind can be enjoyed instead of composted. Leave a little flesh on the rind, and turn it into a quick pickle. You now have three treats for the price of one melon. And all of them will last for months in the freezer (sorbet) or refrigerator (shrub and pickle).
Ready to give watermelon shrub a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You need just 3 main ingredients plus some fresh herbs.
1. Mix the watermelon juice and sugar.
2. Add the vinegar and basil.
3. Let infuse for at least a day before enjoyings as a soda or cocktail.
1-1/2 cups watermelon juice, fresh or reserved from Watermelon–Mint Sorbet
1/2 cup ultrafine sugar
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
6–8 basil leaves
Combine the juice and sugar in a quart jar; screw on the lid and shake briskly until the sugar dissolves. Pour the vinegar into the jar. Bruise the basil leaves by piling them in your hand and slapping them several times, then add them to the jar. Screw on the lid, and then shake well to combine. Refrigerate, waiting at least a day and ideally a week before using. Remove the basil leaves after a few days, transferring the concentrate to a 650-mL or larger bottle if desired. The shrub will keep refrigerated for several months. Makes about 2-1/2 cups.
Tips & Tricks
- If you’re just making shrub watermelon flesh, macerate 1 pound of watermelon cubes with the sugar and then drain off the sweetened juice, following my master recipe for Raw-Fruit Shrub. The remaining solids can still be blended into a smoothie.
- Ultrafine sugar blends more easily into a juice-based shrub than coarser grains. If shaking doesn’t dissolve the sugar, use an immersion or upright blender to agitate the mixture until it’s no longer gritty. You can also create a simple syrup to stir in.
- I prefer white wine vinegar for delicate fruits like melon, but apple cider vinegar will also work. For a bolder flavor, replace a couple of tablespoons of the vinegar with white balsamic.
- Fresh basil imparts most of its flavor in the first couple of days. Once the leaves look colorless and soggy, pluck them from the concentrate. Whole leaves are easier to remove; slapping them first helps to release their oils.
- This shrub recipe is a concentrate; you’ll want to dilute it to enjoy it. The simplest method is to shake the shrub well, pour 1 ounce into a 6-ounce or larger glass, and stir in 4 ounces of sparkling water or seltzer. Then add more water until you get a balance you like. Or use it as the base for a cocktail.
- Like many Twice as Tasty recipes, you can use these techniques to make shrubs from a range of fruit juices. Try swapping in cherry, strawberry, blueberry, apple–cranberry, or a citrus juice.
Want to play with more variations? Twice as Tasty is teaching these techniques in workshops held in your own kitchen, among friends—and with my personal help. Click here to learn more.