Every week, Food52's Executive Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.
Today: The best part of the watermelon might be the skin. Discuss.
The stiff, white outer wall of the watermelon—for good reason—has always seemed like nature's cue to stop. "Back it up," says Nature. "Oh, and don't forget to compost ;)"
In reality, it isn't a stop sign, but a yield; like so many of the secret treasures of the plant kingdom (looking at you, artichoke!), you just need to suspend judgment and know the right way to get in.
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Here, in Olia Hercules' Watermelon Skin Jam from her new, beautiful Ukrainian cookbook Mamushka, the navigation is pretty straightforward: Peel off the tough green skin, chop up the white remains, mix them with sugar and lime and let them macerate overnight, then cook it all down to a sticky conserve.
Despite the simplicity, you might be wondering if it's worth the trouble, and I don't blame you. I tried not to take it on myself (I already have jam, so…). I made it only halfway the first time, then got lazy and passed the recipe off to Lindsay-Jean Hard, our editor who oversees a lot of noble projects, including our new Cooking with Scraps column.
But after tasting her jam at our photo shoot, I had to steal the recipe back for this column (Lindsay-Jean is also the mom of a toddler, so she's very patient and versed in trouble-making). Since then, I've made several variations, including one without lime (tastes like sweet honeydew!) and one leaving on the dark green skins (olive-colored, and only marginally chewier!).
In jam form, the rind holds its own: What was once pale and crunchy turns into sticky, glassy caramel, with a slight candied chew. The lime slices are candied, too, adding fragrance, acid, and a bitter edge, as good marmalades do. "When I was little, it seemed like all of the 'old people' in my sphere had Sunkist Fruit Gems lying around," Lindsay-Jean told me. "This reminds me of the lime-flavored ones."
Yes, this is about making clever use of waste, as we're trying to do more and more these days. But it's also about seeing a new side of a fruit that provides a pretty straightforward experience most of the time. And not only does it have more depth and personality than you ever thought watermelon could, it's also the backbone to a better and brighter marmalade.
Plus, if you've already lugged a 10-pound watermelon home—you might as well make the most of it. Now we just need to figure out what to do with those seeds.
Slightly adapted from Mamushka (Mitchell Beazley, 2015)
Makes two 450-milliliter (3/4-pint) jars
500 grams (1 pound) watermelon skin, tough thin green rind peeled and discarded, white skin finely chopped 300 grams (10 ounces) golden caster sugar (or substitute superfine sugar or demerara or turbinado, ground fine in the food processor) 4 limes, halved and thinly sliced
Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thanks to our Associate Editor Ali Slagle for this one!
Photos by Bobbi Lin
The Genius Desserts cookbook is here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.
I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."