No fruit says summer like watermelon. It’s refreshing, has a crisp bite, and isn’t so sweet that it leaves you feeling thirsty. It’s the perfect dessert/snack/fruit/end of meal on hot & humid summer days. I love it when it’s been chilled in the fridge.
Recently, I was eating some really spicy tacos. I love spicy food, but even I’ll admit I went a tiny bit overboard on the hot sauce that day. I needed to cool off my tongue a bit, and I knew water wasn’t going to work, so I decided to finish them off with a few slices of watermelon we had in the fridge. The flavors went together amazingly well, and I wondered: why we don’t we drink watermelon juice?
In fact, something called watermelon “agua fresca” is sold at stands all over Mexico. I like to imagine that somewhere along the course of Mexican history, the inventor of agua fresca was also over-enthusiastic with the hot stuff on his or her taco and found watermelon to be a great counterbalance.
When life hands you overripe watermelons, make melonade
This week we bought a huge watermelon from the supermarket (hey, it was $4 on sale, I wasn’t going to pass that up). Unfortunately, it turned out to be just slightly past its prime. It hadn’t gone bad, but it didn’t have that nice crisp mouthfeel to it. And we had a ton of it. Perfect for attempting my very own version of agua fresca.
Guess what? It’s super easy! And tastes great. Perfect for a Fourth of July barbecue or summer get-together.
Here’s what I did.
What you need:
- Watermelon, cut into cubes (I used about 3/4 of a very large watermelon)
- Lime juice (I used a least a 1/4 cup, might have been more)
- A pinch of salt
- 2-3 tbsp sugar (more or less depending on how sweet you want it; I don’t like it too sweet)
Throw the cubes into a blender, food processor or juicer. Don’t worry about the seeds, we’ll take care of those later. Add lime juice, sugar and salt. Blend well. The ‘juice’ will be pretty pulpy/thick at this point. For some reason all the recipes I found online stopped here, but I wanted more of a real liquid juice.
Get a large bowl ready, and position a fine mesh strainer over it. Ladle the juice a little bit at a time into the strainer and use the back of the ladle or a wooden spoon (whatever works) to mash the pulp further through the strainer. Really push down on it to get as much liquid as you can out.
Keep doing this, occasionally clearing out the mash that’s collecting on the strain and dumping it someplace (I just kept a small bowl nearby so I didn’t have to move around so much). Once you get through it all, you should have a pretty large am0unt of liquid and not so much mash/pulp. If you have a juicer you might not even need this step.
Taste and add more lime juice/sugar until it’s the flavor you want it. You can drink it this way, but at this point it’s still pretty concentrated, so if you want a more traditional style agua fresca add a cup or two of cold water to dilute it. I finished it off with just a few leaves from our basil plant and it gave the drink a nice, subtle something extra.
I’d imagine this would make a pretty tasty vodka or rum drink too. Watermelon-tini, anyone?
Agua frescas come in many different fruit flavors, and I know I’m going to be experimenting with some other versions this summer. What’s your favorite summer fruit?
- Agua Fresca: Two Ways (abeautifulmess.com) – this blog has a watermelon/mint version and a cantaloupe/thyme, not to mention gorgeous photos.