Preserved watermelon

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Indy Lifestyle Online

I first came across this in the Ken Forrester vineyard restaurant, 96 Winery Road, in Stellenbosch outside Cape Town.

I first came across this in the Ken Forrester vineyard restaurant, 96 Winery Road, in Stellenbosch outside Cape Town. It was served with cheese and it was a completely new experience to me. Waatlemoen konfyt, as it's known over there, is as traditional to South Africans as Branston pickle is to us.

Over here it isn't easy to get hold of under-ripe watermelon with a good amount of white flesh between the red part and the rind. I went through three and then found an under-ripe honeydew. A market stall that cuts melons in half is probably your best bet, otherwise do as I did and find an under-ripe honeydew, which isn't difficult as most of those sold in supermarkets are rock-hard. The second problem is the magic ingredient, slaked lime, which I was given a jar of in South Africa, but unable to find here. It's calcium hydroxide and the nearest thing here is bicarbonate of soda.

1 under-ripe honeydew or watermelon
4tsp bicarbonate of soda mixed with about 3 litres of water or enough to cover the melon
1kg granulated or preserving sugar per 1kg melon peel
2litres water per 1kg sugar
Juice of 1 lemon per 1kg under-ripe melon flesh
40g root ginger, peeled and sliced

Peel the melon with a sharp, serrated knife or good peeler and discard the green peel. Cut the melon through into roughly 3cm slices and cut out any red flesh (or soft flesh if using honeydew) to eat another time. Cut the remaining hard white flesh into rough chunks, weigh them (see above) and prick the pieces with a fork then soak them in the bicarbonate of soda solution for 24 hours.

Rinse the white flesh well and soak in fresh water for 2 hours. Bring a large pan half full of water to the boil. Drain the pieces of melon and plunge them into the water and simmer until they are tender but not soft. This can take from 30 to 45 minutes or so and the water may need topping up, test them with a skewer or point of a knife.

Add the correct amount of sugar to the water with the lemon juice and ginger.

Bring the liquid back to the boil, stirring to ensure all the sugar has dissolved, and boil the liquid, stirring every so often, until the pieces of melon are translucent and the syrup is thick: this usually takes 15-20 minutes, again you may need to add a little water if it's not covering the melon or if the liquid is starting to colour.

Pack the melon into sterilised preserving jars, cover with the liquid and seal immediately. Allow to cool and stiffen, then eat with cheese.

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