Watermelon ham is a vegan alternative that could bear fruit, Chinchilla farmer says
February 27, 2019 08:01:22
It may look like a baked ham, but fear not vegans.
Chinchilla farmer Terry O’Leary started smoking watermelon at the urgings of a friend in Canada and he’s now championing its potential as a barbecue alternative.
“We’ve always been big fans of grilling watermelon on the charcoal barbecue and that always had good flavour,” he said.
“But I saw a video on social media around Christmas time where over in North America people were spending up to $75 for a watermelon ham.
“I thought it was an interesting concept.”
Add brine, cumin and coriander
The recent Chinchilla Watermelon Festival also gave the O’Leary family an excuse to try the smoked delicacy.
“Twelve years ago we had a Canadian backpacker working for us, Katie Thom, who is a great chef,” Mr O’Leary told ABC Radio Brisbane’s Rebecca Levingston.
“She comes back for the festival each year and she urged us to give it a go.”
Mr O’Leary said after skinning the watermelon, it was brined for three days in salty water with cumin and coriander seeds.
“After sitting in the brine in the fridge we patted it down and smoked it for the best part of a day,” he said.
“Scoring the top of the watermelon before smoking it gives it a ham look.”
He said the fruit held up well to the unusual treatment.
“Watermelon is a versatile fruit. As good as they are straight up, there is also a lot you can do with them in salads and preparing watermelon,” Mr O’Leary said.
“The saltiness, the sweetness and the smokiness go really well together.”
Tastes like nothing else
When it comes to texture, the smoked melon resembles that of salmon.
“It’s very soft and melts in your mouth, but when it comes to taste it’s really like nothing I’ve ever tried,” Mr O’Leary said.
Baking the vegan ham after smoking it also helped ensure the watermelon was cooked through.
“Popping it in the oven for 100 degrees to heat it all the way through for half an hour followed by a butter or a nut-based butter with olive oil to pour over the top helps,” he said.
“That gives it the lovely crust, like ham.”
While it’s taking off in the Northern Hemisphere, Mr O’Leary said he didn’t think it would fetch the $75 in Australia that it attracted overseas.
“They’re charging that in New York at the moment, and I would encourage people to give it a go, but I don’t think it’s $75 worth.
“I would also buy a leg ham and smoke a conventional ham too to help the pork producers out and have both.”