Will Smoked 'Watermelon Ham' Grace Your Thanksgiving Table?

A slice of watermelon ham from Ducks Eatery. (Photo: Food Insider/YouTube Screenshot)

Watermelons, long synonymous with hot summer days and seed spitting, are suddenly finding themselves stuck between the gravy and the mashed potatoes.

Welcome, my confused culinary friends, to the age of the "watermelon ham."

In some ways, maybe we should have expected this. After all, we now have food alternatives that include everything from veggie burgers to seaweed caviar, cauliflower steaks and jackfruit pulled pork. In fact, according to a new report, the global vegan meat market is expected to surpass $6.5 billion by 2026.

But watermelon? What mad genius thought covering this venerable summer fruit in spices and herbs and smoking it could possibly make any culinary sense at all?

The key to making a watermelon ham? Spice, smoke, and a whole lot of patience.
The key to making a watermelon ham? Spice, smoke and a whole lot of patience. (Photo: Brunch Boys/YouTube Screenshot)

Turns out the watermelon ham is not the work of a vegan, but chef Will Horowitz, co-owner of the meat-centric Ducks Eatery in New York's East Village.

"It's hot, which is super weird, we understand," Horowitz said during an interview with Fox Business in August. "We just wanted to try something a little different."

Doing things differently and experimenting has long been one of the secrets behind Horowitz's success. Not a fan of commercial fake meats, he instead prefers to use fruits to mimic meat. For instance, in addition to watermelon ham, Ducks Eatery also offers a popular cantaloupe burger on its menu.

"We want to keep pushing these ideas and figuring out new and creative, innovative ways to eat and smoke non-meat things," he told Eater.

The perfect cut of melon

As you might expect, the art of turning a watermelon into something resembling a holiday ham requires planning and patience. Horowitz personally brines his cut watermelons in a marinade of herbs, salt, and ash for four days and then, after drying for five hours, smokes them for eight hours. The process is so intensive that the restaurant can only afford to serve two per night at a cost of $75 each.

Nonetheless, curious foodies are finding the bizarre dish surprisingly tasty. So much so, there's now a month-long waitlist for the dish.

Jeremy Jacobowitz of The Brunch Boys summed it up in an Instagram post. "Your brain wants to think 'meaty' and you get that smokiness and the saltiness, but then you go through it and get that sweetness of the watermelon. I don't know how to process what I just ate, but it's delicious."

Make your own watermelon ham for the holidays

If you're someone who enjoys injecting something different into your holiday menu, it turns out you can skip the line at Ducks Eatery and make this bizarre creation at home. For those with adventurous tastebuds, there are two different video how-tos below. (Just maybe keep another dish waiting in the wings should this turn out to be a sweet flash in the pan.)