I am feeling profoundly (or, as my fingers tried to put it, “feely profounding”) inarticulate today in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. I keep thinking of my uncle Jerry, the first gay person I ever knew, whose death to AIDS in 1988 spurred me to activism as a young kid with moussed bangs and a Silence=Death sweatshirt, and in whose memory June carries one of her middle names. I wonder what he would say today. I’m grateful, relieved, elated, and beyond, that June will grow up in a world that’s very different from what I knew in 1980s Oklahoma.
It also feels like a fitting time to reread John Birdsall’s whip-smart Lucky Peach piece, “America, Your Food Is So Gay,” which was originally published a couple of years ago, I think.
And given that it’s a Friday in late June, it would also be a fitting time to make watermelon popsicles.
June would eat popsicles, also known within our house as “popsissles,” for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and in truth, I can’t argue with that, especially if I exercise my parental privilege to decide what goes into said popsissles.
In this case, I used David Lebovitz’s simple and brilliant watermelon sorbetto recipe as a template. It starts with watermelon juice – just watermelon, zizzed in a food processor until liquefies – and then you take a little of that juice and warm it with sugar to make a watermelon simple syrup. [So smart, David! So smart.] That syrup then gets stirred into the remaining watermelon juice, along with lime juice and, if you want, a tiny splash of vodka, to help make the popsicles less ice-y. (I skipped the vodka, because I didn’t have any, and if you don’t want to use it, don’t.) In any case, the mixture was bright and big-flavored, and I was halfway inclined to pour it over a glass of ice and down it. But June’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner needs prevailed. We made popsicles.
These popsicles will only taste as good as the watermelon you start with, so start with a sweet, flavorful one. Oh, and you can omit the vodka, if you want.
Cut away and discard the rind of the watermelon, and cut the flesh into cubes. Chuck the cubes into a blender or food processor, and process until liquefied. Pour through a strainer (to remove seeds) into a large measuring cup. You should have about 3 cups (750 ml) of watermelon juice. (If you have more, well, drink up! Or freeze for future use.)
In a small, nonreactive saucepan, warm about ½ cup (125 ml) of the watermelon juice with the sugar and then salt, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, and stir this syrup into the remaining 2 ½ cups (625 ml) watermelon juice. Mix in the lime juice and vodka, if using. Taste, and add more lime juice, if you want, or more salt. You shouldn’t taste the salt; it’s just there to intensify the watermelon flavor.
Chill the mixture thoroughly – if the watermelon was refrigerator-cold when you started the process, this won’t take long – and then pour it into your popsicle mold of choice. (I used this.) If you have more mixture than will fit in your popsicle molds, drink it, or for mini-pops(!) and other fun stuff, freeze it in ice-cube trays.
Yield: about 10 pops