Watermelon season is forever interlaced with my childhood and the excitement I always felt during the lazy days of summer. A couple of months off of school, hours of fun in the water (beach or poolside), cookouts, and the thrill of mischievous exploration and adventure. Many of my summers were spent visiting relatives whose farm house was surrounded by acres of farm land. Elated that one of these was a huge watermelon patch, I would ‘pass by’ daily on my bike, eagerly awaiting for them to ripen. It was in this small farming community that I was introduced to bartering and the art of the deal, as neighbors never seemed to pay cash for anything. Instead, there were always seasonal foods and services to be exchanged in this small community and bartering with neighbors and growers was considered the norm. My friends and I took great delight in wheeling and dealing with the local ‘watermelon man’ for our melons. Keenly aware that thievery was often an issue once the harvest began to ripen, we used a couple of hours of guarding the field each day as our bargaining chip for melons. I proudly shared my earned melons with family and friends, which always seemed to be bigger and taste better than any of the other watermelons we indulged in each summer.
Back in the day (and mine goes way back), there were no seedless, mini or specialty watermelons, only colossal, juicy melons with a myriad of big black seeds. Surprisingly, there are very few traditional recipes using this large and abundant fruit, other than in beverages, frozen treats or salads. This is what first attracted me to this Italian watermelon pudding. The added bonus is that it’s easy to make, refreshing and not too sweet.
The melon can be pureed in a blender or food processor, before straining the liquid through a sieve. If you plan on using molds rather than ramekins, it is best to use clearjel rather than cornstarch, as it will remain stable when frozen. If using clearjel, it needs to be mixed with some of the sugar before adding to the mixture, to prevent clumping. The sugar can be adjusted according to taste. After cooking, it will thicken into a smooth-textured pudding consistency.
I really like using my little vintage tin molds for this pudding, which I freeze slightly before un-molding. It’s much faster serving the pudding in the ramekins, as they only need be refrigerated.
Elegantly molded or served in a ramekin, this traditional, rustic pudding is unique, simple and refreshing. Enjoy!