I grew up in Texas where the produce from the Rio Grande Valley flooded the markets with the freshest of the fresh.
Beans and broccoli, carrots and cauliflower, honeydew and watermelons…
Soooo many cantaloupe.
Millions of cantaloupes.
Pickup trucks with their beds full of cantaloupes would park on the side of the road and sell all kinds of melons. A truckload of cantaloupe smells intoxicating, especially under the broiling sun of South Texas.
I always had such visions of healthy eating when I would buy them… Like, that hollow sounding thump the cantaloupe made was really saying:
“If you eat me, you will be SOOOOO healthy…
…and happy. You will be so happy because I am so delicious.”
Sadly, it never worked out that way.
See, I have to admit something…
…I hate cantaloupe.
The only thing I like about a casaba melon is that it’s fun to say.
(No… I’m not sure what’s happening in that GIF up there… but its the only one that pulled up when I typed in Casaba, so, enjoy. Apparently chickens use casaba melons to entice dogs? Is that a thing? Maybe that’s a goose? Turkey maybe?)
Anyway… Melons in general disappoint me. The flavor is never… melon-ish enough for me. It’s either too green and unripe, or the texture is grainy or mealy, or it’s too ripe and is mushy or slimy…
I had written Cantaloupe off, along with all other melons.
When I was in my late 20’s I took a job at the Jewish Community Center of San Antonio. Ahhh youth…
See, I was a pastry chef at a sweet shop in Alamo Heights for a year before I decided to move over to the JCC.
Suuuuuuure, I’ve managed an entire kitchen before.
Suuuuuuure, I’ve provided hot lunches for kids before.
Suuuuuuure, I’ve provided hot lunches for senior adults.
They we’re thrilled because I was so cheap. I was thrilled because, well… I was stupid.
You know, I was 20something. I had all life figured out. I liked to cook, so… you know, having an entire kitchen to play around in sounded AMAZING!
I had visions of pointing and “overseeing” the food production, and doing quality taste testing.
Yeah, turns out the staff included me, and a 70-year-old Russian lady who only spoke Russian.
Yevah was her name, and I still don’t know if she ever liked me.
I would provide hot lunches for the school program, 60-70 a day, Mon-Friday, I would provide a nutritionally appropriate meal for the Senior Adult program daily which could be upwards of 25-30 people, and every Friday morning at 1 AM I would trudge in to make Challah.
My Challah was a big deal.
I’d make upwards to 200 loaves. Plain Challah, Chocolate Chip Challah, Onion Challah, Cinnamon Raisin Challah..
Now, you might think I was pretty brave for “misrepresenting” my level of experience to get a job.
The bravest thing, by far, that I ever did… was feeding a room full of grannies.
Oh man. I break out in a cold sweat just thinking about it now.
Those “bubbes” had experienced life… a lot of life.
Some still had tattooed forearms to prove that they had seen BAD things in life…
…you can imagine, they didn’t hesitate to hold back telling a 20something “goy” how “mashugana” lunch had been, and how “shmendrik” I was for not listening to them.
I took it all in stride because they were all the very best people I have ever met.
They taught me so much about life.
Eventually I started branching out and experimenting, especially with desserts. I would read in magazines (This was at the very dawn of the internet. No, we didn’t all live in caves.) about different, rather “mishegas” combinations.
Daring fate, I’d feed it to them.
Some were “Mazel”…
Some… well, for some I was “gornisht.” (Actually the word they used was “bupkes” which sorta means goat turd… Tough crowd. I was a goat turd.)
One particularly hot afternoon, the Senior Adult Coordinator came into the kitchen after dessert went out. She had a shocked look on her face. She somberly told me that the Senior Adults wanted me to come out. They had something to tell me.
I had made Cantaloupe Sorbet for their dessert.
I prepared myself for the worst. It was a revolt. I was done for.
They brought me out the kitchen door, and they all started clapping for me. Eva, who was the THE queen bee of the 60+ circle at the San Antonio JCC came up, and so did Mitzi and Johanna (Yo-Hanna) and they proclaimed me “mishpocheh”.
I still get teary eyed.
So, that’s the day I learned about the potential of Cantaloupe, and I’ve never forgotten it.
On a whim the other day I decided to make some Cantaloupe Curd.
My first batch was a soupy flavorless mess, but I persisted.
The trick is to condense the flavors down. Peel the cantaloupe, remove the seeds, cut it into chunks, and ROAST THAT MELON!
Yeah, roast it, in the oven, at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
Then, chop it up in the food processor.
Then, sieve all the juice away from the pulp. (I saved the pulp… more about that in a minute.)
My recipe for curd calls for 2/3rd a cup of juice. You will get way more juice out of a cantaloupe than that, so… boil it down. Condense the flavor.
Reduce the juice to 2/3rd cup.
BOOM… make your curd.
Look at that color! Not only is it a nice color, its delicious. It’s nearly impossible to place the flavor if you don’t know what it actually is. It’s bright, slightly citrus… but not tart. Its sweet and unlike anything you’ve tasted.
I made a Moscato Cake and some Buttercream. I mixed the left over pulp into the buttercream to give it an ever so subtle flavor. It was so good…
The cake? Well, I’m just going to admit I’m not ready to release that recipe yet…
…because, while it had a very good flavor, the texture is… ummm… dense. Very very dense.
Look for that recipe to be out soon…
…as soon as I figure out how to fix it.
But oh man… It was worth the hours I spent making this curd, and once I figured out the process, it goes extremely fast.
I am dying to make some more, and try it with a mint cake. Mint and Cantaloupe is AMAZING together…
What would you try this on?
Do you like cantaloupe?
What is your favorite thing to eat with Cantaloupe.
(I’m asking so I get ideas for future cakes.)
I used the Balloon Tip which is one of the new Russian Piping Tips for the super ruffled top dollop. It worked like a charm. Just a FYI though… if you enjoy eating a celebratory squirt of buttercream straight from the nozzle when you finish your cake…
…put the balloon in your mouth and squeeze then pull the balloon tip out of your mouth as you close your lips.
Your lips will get caught in the nozzle.
or so I’ve been told.
I would never do something like that.
I’m an adult now…