Wednesday, 21 June 2017 05:57

Watermelon syrup always a summer delight

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Call me Goldilocks. Some weeks ago, I had tried and failed to find a watermelon not too big or small, neither too green nor ripe, but just right and worth its weight in Rollkuchen.

I’d sought. I’d thumped. And finding none, but melons that, when knocked upon, resounded with a dull and disappointing squish-squash, or a too-high tip-tap, I nevertheless had impulsively bought one, wholely unworthy, overripe, mealy, melon. It was now taking up undeserved space in the fridge and I’d nearly decided to put away my favourite deep frying pot and thermometer until next year.
Better luck then.
But what, really, if you’ve had it even once, is summer without watermelon and Rollkuchen?
(And all the Mennonites say, “Amen.”)
Rollkuchen, an old family recipe that is, very simply, deep-fried dough, just isn’t complete in these latter months of summer, without melon.
Crisp melon, pink or yellow, full of sugars, running with juice that drips from chin and hand to elbow and onto lap. A spear in one hand, Rollkuchen in the other, double-fisting the goodness of sweet and slightly salty into your mouth.
It is bliss. It is the stuff of legend. It is the reward for spending a dusty day in the fields or a sun-baked afternoon down at the lake with family and flotation devices.
Sure, Rollkuchen are more than marvelous with jam — especially Saskatoon — or stuffed with the same berries. They go with coffee better than cream. And, as Chefhusband lately proved, they weaken the knees when swirled in a viscous puddle of sweetened condensed milk.
I know. I’m about to receive another complaint from Interior Health.
Hopefully they’ll remember I published recipes for halibut and green beans lately, for antioxidant-rich blueberry soup, and have mercy.
Surely, though, the comfort foods we grew up on, which remind us of easier days in our grandmother’s kitchens, are, on occasion, as good for the soul as Omega-3 oils are for the body.
And so finally, I found my watermelon, at our favourite produce stand, where a cache of just-picked, yellow melons, made all the right overtures.
Small but heavy for its size, with a taut green rind stretched around the flesh like a drum.
That night, after the dough sizzled in the pot and drained on paper towels, we feasted.
The Rollkuchen were soft and light and barely salty. The watermelon crisp and sweet. And so, we were sated for another year.
But what to do with that overripe, now long-refrigerated, melon I bought first?
The answer comes from one of favourite books of all time, Sandra Birdsell’s Giller-finalist novel The Russländer.
 It’s watermelon syrup.
To learn more about it, simply try the recipe, but to discover where it comes from, I invite you to read the book.

Watermelon syrup
One 3 lb very ripe watermelon
6 tbs sugar
1 tbs lemon juice
Cut melon in half. Scoop flesh into a blender. Puree. Strain juice through cheesecloth into a medium pot. Discard pulp. (You should have about 2 1/2 cups juice).
Add sugar.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer briskly, skimming off foam, for about 45 minutes, until reduced to about 2/3 cup. Test the syrup’s set by drizzling a little onto a cold plate.
When satisfied, add lemon. Remove from heat. Cool completely. Refrigerate. Or heat process to preserve in jars.
3 eggs
1/2 cup cream
1 cup milk
2 1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
4 1/2 (approx) cups flour
Whisk together first five ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer.
Add flour, a cup at time, to make a medium-soft dough. Turn onto a lightly-floured surface and knead for another minute. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour.
Heat a few inches of canola oil in a deep, wide pot, to 375F.
Roll dough out in thirds, to ?-inch thick. Cut into rectangles, approximately 3 by 5-inches. Cut a short, lengthwise slit in the centre and fold one end through. Fry two at a time, turning once, until lightly golden. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.

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