The Taste of Jolly Rancher Candy & a Fruit Sugar Too!
Although I use honey, molasses, turbinado, and maple syrup to sweeten, there are just some things I would like to sweeten differently. And while I could make syrup from fruit to sweeten and add flavor like my grandmother did, I would rather have my fruited sweetener as fresh from the fruit as possible. Besides, pulverizing the fruit, straining out the juices, and then standing over a hot stove in July, spending hours cooking down the fruit into syrup, is just not my cup of tea.
Then I read about a restaurant that uses dried fruit in the place of sugar in much of their cooking. Whenever possible they try to sweeten with ingredients such as dried fruits that have inherent aroma, instead of with refined ingredients such as white sugar, which have no flavor.
I decided to try taking my watermelon jerky and make a sugar from it. It worked out great! My favorite fruit sugar is now watermelon sugar. I can make a big batch from watermelons during the season. Then in the wintertime, making an infused watermelon drink with my carbonated water brings to mind those wonderful summer days in the middle of a cold, wet season.
“To taste a watermelon is to know what the angels eat,”
Mark Twain proclaimed. I happen to agree.
Yield: depends on the size of the watermelon
Watermelon (see notes)
- Cut watermelon in half, then into 1” slices. Separate the meat from the rind and remove any seeds if you have a seeded melon.
- Cut the slices down to about 1/4 inch thick. Do not cut them any thinner because you will have trouble removing them from the trays if you do. (It is a good idea to turn these every 4 hours or so as they are dehydrating.)
- Place watermelon slices on a fruit roll-up lined tray. Alternately you can use parchment paper lined trays. I would recommend also lining the bottom of your dehydrator to catch any drips.
- Dry the watermelon slices at 125°F/50°C and be patient. (If you are experiencing high humidity in your area, you can set your temperature control up to 135°F/55°C to combat the humidity.) Remember, watermelon is more than 91 percent water. It will take at least 18-24 hours to dry these slices. Just keep drying until the watermelon is sufficiently dry and breaks when you bend it. I have had to keep drying for almost 3 days when the humidity was at 98% here. So be p.a.t.i.e.n.t
You can stop right here for Watermelon Jerky/Candy, or you can grind it for watermelon sugar. I seal most of the strips I dehydrate in vacuum-sealed containers with desiccant packs, grinding as I need it.
- Once thoroughly cooled, simply pulverize the dried watermelon jerky in a coffee/spice grinder or, if you don’t own a grinder, in your blender or other high powered appliance like a Bullet. You want to grind them enough to achieve a powdered consistency between white sugar and white flour.
- You may find it useful to shake the material from the grinder through a sieve. Put the larger pieces left behind through a second grind or store them in a jar for adding to foods as “flakes”.
- Store in sealed, airtight containers away from heat and light.
Choosing Your Watermelon:
- Watermelon can be any variety you choose, seeded or unseeded. However, the sweeter the meat, the sweeter your watermelon sugar will be.
- Make sure your watermelon is firm and fresh. Mealy, too soft watermelons do not make good candidates for dehydration.
- The most popular, sweetest varieties of watermelon are the Crimson Sweet, the Bradford, and the Sugar Baby. If you are buying them from a store though, they will probably not be labeled. Test the taste of your watermelon when you get home to see if it is a good candidate for watermelon jerky /sugar
Using Watermelon Sugar:
- To use your watermelon sugar, you will need to experiment since some watermelons are sweeter than others. I usually start with 1/2 of the amount of sugar or sweetener called for and then increase to taste.
- I use this sweet powder to sweeten (and flavor) tea, coffee, infused waters, and desserts. You can make watermelon sugar into a syrup too and use for pancakes instead of artificial or expensive syrups. Try it in baked goods. I make a watermelon cheesecake that is all the rage wherever I take it!
- Although I do bake with my fruit sugars, I find them most flavorful when I add them to uncooked or minimally cooked dishes. The powder does not dissolve as does white sugar so keep this in mind when using it to make your foods.
Fruit Sugar Tip:
- This process can be used with any sweet fruit you choose. Bananas, dates, sweet grapes, pears, prunes, raisins, and figs are a few of the choices.
You can make a watermelon fruit leather as well. It does dry faster because you purée and then strain the juice.
To have a zero-waste product, why not try pickling the watermelon rinds as well? Here is the recipe for Watermelon Rind Pickles.
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