No summer picnic or BBQ is complete without a wedge of fresh, juicy watermelon! Watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew are some of the season’s most refreshing ingredients, perfect for cooling down on a hot day. Here’s how to choose, store and prep melons, plus new recipe ideas from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Look for: Ripe melons have a strong, sweet fragrance and give slightly when pressed at both ends. A fully ripe melon may have tiny cracks at the stem end. Choose melons that are heavy for their size and free of deep blemishes, shriveled peel or soft, moldy areas. Look for a large, pale yellow (but not white, soft or moldy) patch on one side of a watermelon, indicating it was left on the vine to ripen and is likely to be sweeter. For the juiciest ones, knock on the melon and listen for a deep resonance.
Prep tips: Store ripe melons in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Although it will not have the flavor of a vine-ripened one, an unripe melon will sweeten slightly if left in a paper bag at room temperature for a few days. An exception is the honeydew, which will stay only as sweet as it was when harvested. Refrigerate whole and cut watermelons because, after they are picked from the vine, their flesh becomes increasingly dry and fibrous in warm temperatures. Although best eaten as soon as possible, a whole watermelon can stay in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. If it is too big to fit in the refrigerator, store the melon in a cold, dark place for no more than 3 days. Cover cut pieces with plastic wrap or place in an airtight container.
Cut melons in half and scoop out their seeds with a large spoon. To keep the melon moist, peel and cut off slices only as they are needed. Melons taste sweeter if served at room temperature or only slightly chilled. Remove them from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving. For watermelon, use a large, sharp knife, carefully cutting the melon in half, lengthwise or crosswise. Scrape out and discard as many seeds as possible. So-called seedless watermelons may have small white seeds; though they are edible, many cooks remove them before using in recipes. Here’s your toolkit:
- Shun Classic Western Chef’s Knife, for peeling and cutting melons
- Vitamix Blender, to puree melons
- Glass Storage Containers, for storing cut fruits
- Melon Scoop, to make perfect, uniform balls of melon for your salads
Uses: Juicy melons are refreshing in fruit salads and on antipasti platters with cured meats. Pureed, they make delicious drinks, cocktails and frozen desserts, like sorbets. During the hot summer months, nothing is better than a melon, sliced into wedges and eaten simply out of hand.
Cantaloupe & Prosciutto with Balsamic Vinegar: Slice cantaloupe into wedges. Wrap prosciutto around cantaloupe and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Arrange on a platter and garnish with thin slivers of fresh basil, if desired.
Watermelon & Tomato Salad: Cut watermelon and tomatoes into 1-inch pieces and toss together in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with feta, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.
Pickled Watermelon Rind: Cut watermelon rind into 1-inch squares. Boil in lightly salted water until soft. Drain. Combine 2 cups sugar, 1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar and 1/2 tsp. pickling spice. Bring to a boil and pour over rind. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate in liquid at least 2 hours and up to 2 weeks.
Melon with Basil, Honey & Lime: Cut a honeydew melon and cantaloupe into 1-inch pieces and toss together in a bowl. Stir together chopped basil, honey and lime juice. Add to melon bowl and toss to combine.
Melon Salsa: Finely dice melon, cucumber, serrano chile and shallot. Stir together in a bowl. Add chopped fresh mint, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine. Serve with grilled fish, meat or chips.
Mixed Melon Granita: Puree cantaloupe and honeydew melon, simple syrup and lime juice. Pour into rectangular pan and place in freezer. Every 20 minutes, scrape mixture with a fork to create ice crystals. Serve when completely frozen.