This last month or so was the first time in a long time I got to really settle in at home in the summer. To me, one thing that settling in means is buying a lot of fresh food, and cooking it up. Plums just appeared at my farmer’s market a few weeks ago, and my husband loves watermelon. Plus, I was testing out recipes for raspberry jam, in advance of picking black raspberries as they come into season at my friend’s secret raspberry picking spot. So, I found myself about to leave town, in the phase known as “eat the fridge,” with a bowlful of plums, 3/4 of a fairly good orange watermelon, part of a jar of jam, etc.
At first this really bummed me out because I cannot stand to waste food, I pride myself on planning so that we’ll eat everything, and it seemed like a bit much to just chow down.
Then I got to thinking, isn’t this the original reason for preserved foods, because you can’t eat everything while it’s fresh? The plums we’re pretty easy, canned into a delicious compote (more about that later).
Watermelon, though? A quick search produced this article on The Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking and this one on Mother Earth News. I basically followed their advice. Cutting the watermelon into quarters longways definitely made it easier to slice it thinly, and to take out lots of seeds, although more appeared as it dried. The flavor of these was actually really good, Bryan likened it to watermelon mixed with butternut squash. I’m still on the fence about whether it was good enough to do again, mainly because it took forever in my oven, where forever is about 5 hours at 170° F, the lowest setting. After letting it dry overnight, I had to heat it up again because cooled, it was stuck irrevocably to the broiler pan I used as a drying rack. By the time it reached the “not tacky” stage recommended in Mother Earth News, it was a struggle to get it off the pan, even warm, without leaving about half behind. The top photo has the most picturesque shreds. If you happen to have a dehydrator though, it’s a no-brainer, you should definitely try some watermelon.
The thing that I’m most happy about this whole escapade though, was instead of seeing all the food we had as something that had to go before we left, I started thinking of it more like an ongoing process, that tied the food to our trip and to our return. After I started thinking this way, I bought a loaf of bread, used part of it to finish up the jam, took part of it with us, and froze part to eat when we come back. I’m looking forward to some French toast with plum preserves!
I’ve also been inspired to think about unconventional road food this summer by Kimberley’s series on The Year in Food. As we sat on the plane, eating fresh bread, carrots & cheese (the last ones left in the fridge, washed and/or sliced and packed to go) and shreds of dried watermelon, I was a happy camper. Having my own food, especially interesting food, definitely takes away some of the sardine can/cattle drive feeling of flying these days.
As I type this, we are getting ready to head over and set up for the Ann Arbor Art Fair, in 103° weather. The dried watermelon is all gone, finished up at the last show. But writing this post and thinking about our food adventures is putting me in a good mood, hopefully one that will last!