There is nothing I like better than getting back to the days of finger painting and ice pops. I don’t have kids at home (anymore), but that doesn’t stop me. Some parents cringe at the thought – or the memory – of a mess and sticky fingers. Not me. Honestly, I can mess with the best of them, especially if food is involved.
Combining a desire to play with brightly colored fruits and insatiable curiosity about “what would happen if….” led to some interesting moments. I set out to make desserts and drinks with watermelon, a few other ingredients, and my imagination.
As I got serious about homemade popsicles, infused frozen watermelon, and granita, there were moments when it was a good thing there were no witnesses. But the house remains standing, no one got injured, and the results were pretty darn good if you ask my food-taster-in-chief or me.
Round 1 – Popsicles
I found cheap popsicle molds at a dollar store and got the distinctly cheesy desire to do red-white-and-blue pops for July 4th when I saw an ad for the multi-colored rocket-pops I used to love. The color theme was easily accomplished with watermelon and strawberries for red, Greek-style yogurt for white, and blueberries (of course) for blue. The exact proportions and details are at the end of this post.
The trick to creating a multi-layered popsicle is to let each layer freeze for about 30 minutes before adding the next one. Although the popsicle molds came with sticks, it turned out that wooden popsicle sticks (available at discount and craft stores) worked better, especially if inserted when you add the third layer.
Another tip for popsicles is to add a tablespoon or 2 of a complementary-flavored jam or jelly to any layer that has a thin consistency. I used my derecho strawberry-rhubarb jam for the red layer and, because I didn’t have blueberry jam, red currant jelly for the blue layer. Obviously, the thicker the jam/jelly, the more it will help thicken the mixture.
With leftover watermelon and strawberry mixture, I made a batch of all-red popsicles. On the theory that grown-up fun can include grown-up ingredients, I added vodka to them. I knew that too much alcohol would lower the freezing temperature of the mixture too much and I didn’t want to get anybody drunk on a popsicle, so I used 1½ tablespoons (roughly ¾ ounce or slightly less than 1 shot glass) of vodka per 4 ounce pop. Those proportions worked just fine in terms of freezing.
Although ¾ ounce is only about half of the alcohol in a standard drink (according to this useful chart regarding alcohol equivalences), someone eating the popsicle might not realize that it contains alcohol as vodka has no taste or odor. I wouldn’t be entitled to use the MotherWouldKnow moniker if I didn’t remind you to be sure you only serve vodka pops to adults, and let them know about the alcohol.
Round 2 –Daiquiri-Infused Watermelon
My curiosity about combining watermelon and alcohol then led me to wonder what would happen if I soaked watermelon cubes in a daiquiri mixture. I don’t drink cocktails often, but as a huge Mad Men fan, I just had to pay homage to the show. Using an adaptation of a “classic” daiquiri, I cubed watermelon, gently submerged the cubes in the mixture and froze the combination for a few hours. The result was delightful, both the cubes as a “toothpick” dessert and the mixture served as a drink.
Round 3 – Watermelon and Pineapple Granita
Initially, I planned to mix the watermelon and pineapple. However, remembering that my taster-in-chief thought that combination was too tart, I kept them separate and added coconut to the pineapple. The result was reminiscent of pina coladas – and very pleasant.
I knew that puréed watermelon would be quite liquid because watermelon is about 92% water. That meant it would probably have a granita texture similar to my coffee and mint tea versions. But what would happen if I boiled the purée before chilling it?
After 15 minutes at a rolling boil, the purée was the consistency (and bright color) of thick tomato sauce. Frozen and periodically scraped, it created a cross between granita and sorbet. The pineapple (without cooking) had about the same consistency.
The combination was lovely, but as a dessert it requires good timing, because it melts quickly. Then again, when I stirred the melting watermelon and pineapple, they took on a smooth consistency rather like a non-dairy sherbet.
Popsicles – 8 small or 4 medium striped popsicles and 4 medium red popsicles
- 2 cups watermelon cubes (turns into about 12 ounces of blended watermelon)
- ¾ – 1 cup of strawberry pieces
- Zest and juice of ½ lime (about ½ teaspoon of zest and 1 tablespoon of juice)
- 3 tablespoons simple syrup in a 1-to-1 ratio of water-to-sugar.
- 1-2 tablespoons jam (thickens the mixture)
- ½ cup unflavored Greek-style yogurt
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons simple syrup
- 8 ounces blueberries
- 3 tablespoons simple syrup
- Separately blend the ingredients for each layer. I used an immersion blender. A food processor or a larger blender would also work.
- Add one layer gently to the popsicle molds. Freeze for 30 minutes.
- Repeat with the second and third layers. When you put the third layer in, pierce each popsicle with its wooden popsicle stick.
- Freeze the popsicles for several hours, until completely frozen. Tip: If the popsicles do not easily release from the forms: 1) wrap the bottoms in a towel rinsed in warm or hot water or carefully run very warm water over the bottom of the popsicle forms (being careful not to get water into the popsicles) and/or 2) run a sharp knife inside the form.
Daquiri-Infused Watermelon – Serves 3-4
- 2 cups of watermelon chunks
- 4 ounces light rum
- Zest and juice of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons of simple syrup in 1-to-1 ratio
- 1-2 sprigs fresh mint leaves
- Combine the rum, lime zest and juice and the simple syrup.
- Add the watermelon chunks and tear the mint leaves on top.
- Lightly toss the mixture and freeze for several hours.
- 4 cups watermelon chunks
- 3 -4 tablespoons simple syrup
- Juice of ½ small lemon
- Blend the mixture.
- Cook at a rolling boil for 15 minutes.
- Chill to room temperature, then follow general directions for granita.
- 2 cups of pineapple chunks
- ¼ cup of sweetened coconut, steeped in 3 tablespoons of warmed simple syrup
- Blend the mixture
- Follow the general directions for granita.
I hope that my frozen watermelon adventures inspire you. What’s the craziest thing you’ve made – or would like to try – with frozen watermelon?
Disclosure – This post is part of a series sponsored by the National Watermelon Promotion Board. The Board compensated me to write about watermelon, but did not dictate or review the content. All opinions expressed and editorial decisions are completely my own.