Summer Frivolity: How to Strategically Smash A Watermelon into Six Pieces
- maria lorraine Jun 24, 2009 04:31 PM
There's a way -- a way that I don't know -- to strategically hit a watermelon so that
it cleaves easily into six hexagonal pieces, like petals on a flower, leaving the heart -- the best part of the watermelon -- in the middle.
I've seen it done, and heard about it.
From "Like Water for Chocolate" [the book and the movie]:
"Mama Elena was a specialist in cutting the watermelon:
taking a sharp knife, she would drive the point in so it penetrated
just to the end of the green rind, without touching the heart of the watermelon.
She could pick up the watermelon and give it a single blow against a stone,
in a particular spot, and like magic the watermelon rind would open like
the petals of a flower leaving the heart intact on the table.”
Anyone know how to score the watermelon to help it cleave symmetrically?
Where on the watermelon do I hit it? The end or the equator?
And how, um, hard do I hit it?
Any tips, videos, leads? Appreciate any and all suggestions...summer is barreling along!
It's demonstrated in the movie "Like Water for Chocolate." The scene is in the middle, shortly after Tita's sister has given birth and is shown nursing. I also saw it done at an outdoor picnic a few years ago, but I just caught the smashing part and not the prep.
I'll test out tmso's technique (below) tonight and report back.
I've also written a few watermelon festival directors and have asked if they know of anyone who knows how to do this, and can provide direction.
Are you allowed to score the watermelon before? Then you could 'draw' a deep score into the rind without actually cutting the melon. (a horizontal score across the middle, and then two deep scores on either side at 60 degrees)
Then bang a chisel into the centre of the pie cut and it should divide into 6 equal parts
I haven't done this in years and years but, inspired by the book, I tried it and it worked.
If I remember correctly, what worked was to score the non-stem tip to indicate how it should break into pieces. Then bring it down from a height of a meter or so, a little more forcefully than it would fall on its own, striking the stem end.
The idea is that the stem end can take the most force without actually collapsing, and the melon breaks apart where you cut the rind. It really did leave a chunk of heart, too. I don't know how beautiful the end result was.
OOOOOOoooo weeeee. Partial SUCCESS!
Using tmso's wonderful tip above, and waytob's tip about scoring, I set about on my second attempt at strategic watermelon smashing.
Look at the stripe lines:
I looked closely at my watermelon's ends -- the place where all the stripes of the watermelon come together like longitude lines at the North and South Poles.
There was very clearly a horizontal stripe that went completely through one pole, the non-stem end, creating a 180-degree line. This was a big giveaway. Then I noticed that the stripes more subtly delineated three 60-degree angles on each side of the horizontal line. This looked just like a pie that's cut into six pieces.
Score along the stripe lines, because they indicate where the sections are:
So, using tmso's advice, I scored the non-stem end into 6 pieces, just like cutting a pie. I used a knife to cut into the watermelon rind, but not into the flesh. I made six cuts, each about 7-8" long from the non-stem end.
Smashing -- some force but not too much:
Then, I smashed the stem end against a concrete slab, again using tmso's suggestion about how much force to use.
The watermelon cleaved easily into sections! It wasn't perfect -- some 1/6 sections were partially conjoined, and where the watermelon was not scored the section edges were jagged.
But the heart was clearly defined, and remained attached to one of the sections, as I suspect it always will. But we were able to easily break that off and eat it first!!
Next steps to get a little closer to having this down:
--Score the watermelon in longer cuts along the stripes, probably along the entire length of the watermelon, or close to it.
--Make sure the cuts cut through the watermelon rind. I think this will help the watermelon cleave more precisely.
Why it works, I think:
Just want to add that the hexagonal structure as indicated by the stripe lines on the outside of the watermelon, and the seed lines in the interior of the watermelon (visible in a cross-section slice) reveal the watermelon's natural structure. This is where the watermelon wants to break anyway.
By scoring through the rind in a way that mirrors this internal structure,
it's easy to break the watermelon into its six symmetrical pieces and the heart.
So, another few tries in the next couple of weeks, and I should have it!
I'll continue to report my progress.
Does anybody else want to try and then report the results?
(Sorry, my almost-new digital camera went on the fritz, and is being replaced. I'll try to borrow one for subsequent smashes.)
Well, for starters, it's just a fun and a cool party trick for the summer, and the single fastest way to perfectly segment a watermelon. Emphasis on fastest and clean symmetry.
The other thing is that this technique is part of the folklore. Segmenting a watermelon this way has been done for more than a century. Once you see how easy it is and the lovely result, well, in my opinion, slicing a watermelon becomes a total bore.
This is not Gallagher watermelon obliteration. It's clean, strategic, and kind of goofy elegant.
It's similar to the way an expert diamond cutter knows how to score a diamond along its natural fault lines, and then tap the diamond slightly with a special hammer, and the stone cleaves perfectly.
The same thing can be done with a watermelon. It's structural science at play.
I love to cook and to know how to cut a piece of produce or segment it in a way that uses its natural structure. This is just an extension of that, and we all have kitchen tricks that we use with certain types of produce.
You may have to see it done to understand its appeal. That converts you, IMO. Check out the movie scene mentioned above. It'll show you how swiftly the watermelon is sliced.
Tonight, for example, the first watermelon smash created almost mathematically perfect wedges, meaning, they looked as though they had been sliced with a knife. Eight long wedges of watermelon. The heart again stayed attached to one wedge.
With this watermelon, the stripes revealed eight internal sections instead of six. I scored as the stripes indicated almost along the entire length of the watermelon, then smashed. Just a little raggedness in the slices that corresponded to where I did not score along the stripe lines.
Then, on another try I scored the entire length of the watermelon, again along the stripes. Another eight-slice pie cut. This was the best yet, but I hit the watermelon on a stone, and I think I need the additional impact that I can get by striking it on a concrete slab or driveway.
jfood, you old young dog, you don't have to understand. This is kinda my thing, but I urge Anyone to Join the Cause!
Probably the other thing that explains my interest is that I like to have a new party trick under my belt every now and then just to keep things interesting. A few years ago I learned how to throw a lasso, which is an excellent party trick out here in the Wild West. The watermelon smashing trick is the trick to learn this summer. I'm hoping to have it down by July 4th.
Luckily, whole watermelons are $3.99 each at Trader Joe's right now. What I really want to do is go back to Trader Joe's and load up about ten watermelons in my grocery cart -- now that's a visual -- and practice a few times to get the smash kinda perfect before Independence Day. Been givin' away loads of watermelon, of course, Ziplocs at the ready.
re: maria lorraine
Thanks ML, jfood always counts on you for the in depth. When you mentioned the sections and the stripes, it was worth asking the question, jfood never thought of that, very cool.
Five years ago jfood was asked to cut one of those basket melons. Jfood spent hours developing the cuts he wanted to obtain the perfect basket. Then he sat at the table on the terrace with a ruler, a sharpie, his guides and knives. Music in the background for inspiration he began the surgery. In the end it was a perfect watermelon basket, and even mrs jfood, the artist was impressed.
It's the little things in life that sometimes give you the biggest smile.
Have a good fourth and post of picture of the end, and perfect result.
re: maria lorraine
I wonder how many people who've visited this thread will be buying watermelons soon, especially with July 4 around the corner.
I may pick up a Dulcinea, one of those sweet little ones, and see if it works on the tiny types. If it does, I'll be looking around at what other fruits and veggies might yield themselves to similar experiments.
(Why has anyone not genetically modified coconuts to be openable yet?)
re: maria lorraine
To add to that, just as an observation - breaking water melon in this manner is akin to tearing lettuce. When you tear lettuce instead of cutting it, the tears follow cell borders, resulting in less cells losing there water. It may be a myth, but this is supposed to retain crispness.
With watermelon, when you smash it like this, the breaks should occur at natural borders, resulting in less water leakage, and technically more crispness in the flesh.
As I said, it could be a myth, but still worth checking out - question is...how do you test the crispness of watermelon?