Friday, August 20, 2010

Lovely French Cantaloupe...Oui!

D’Alger – French Cantaloupe, with highly perfumed, smooth and creamy flesh…now I ask you, how could one resist a French cantaloupe with a description like that! Well, I couldn’t and when I purchased my seeds this year that was one of my choices. I was a little worried, as I planted the seeds a bit late, that I would not have any success, but when the little green leaves started to appear I was hopeful. Then came a few pretty little yellow flowers, sort of miniature versions of squash blossoms, now I was excited. And then the bees got into the act…as the flowers multiplied, the vine was abuzz!
In fact I watched as several bees practically tipped over trying to stand on their heads in the little flowers. I actually had to stick my face into the vine to see what all the commotion was about…did the flowers smell? When my nose was right on top of the flower I could smell the sweetest fragrance almost like honeysuckle, no wonder the bees were excited! Pretty soon melons started to form – the bees had done their job…and the melons grew, and grew and grew…no more worries about no melons! But how to tell if the melons were ripe? These big black-green gourds were hard as a rock and since they looked nothing like anything I had seen before I had no reference point. Finally, after they had bathed in the sun several weeks I thought I should risk it and pick one…well, okay so big does not a ripe melon make! But it was close, the flesh was beginning to turn orange and there was a bit of cantaloupe flavor but we weren’t there yet. What to do with this big not quite ripe melon? I couldn’t quite bring myself to giving it up to the compost pile…it was so close! Then I remembered a recipe I had seen for pickled cantaloupe and it had suggested using slightly under ripe melon! Yippee! I dug out the recipe and although it called for 15 cups of cubed cantaloupe, I certainly wasn’t going to pick more under ripe fruit to make something that could potentially be something that no one would want to eat… but my melon produced 7 cups of fruit and half the recipe seemed like plenty.

Adapted from Ball Blue Book
Guide to Preserving

1 ½ C Vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)

1C Water

1 Cinnamon stick

1tsp Whole cloves

½ tsp Whole allspice

1tsp Slivered, whole nutmeg

7C 1inch cubed cantaloupe

2 ¼ C Sugar

Combine vinegar and water in a large sauce pan. Tie spices in a spice bag (or make a little bag using cheesecloth and kitchen twine)and add to vinegar mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add melon; let stand 1 ½ - 2 hours. Add sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat; simmer until cantaloupe becomes slightly transparent (I found that took about 20 minutes). Pack hot melon into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Ladle hot pickling liquid over melon, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Clean rims of jars. Put two piece lids in place. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

The half recipe produced 2 pint jars, which I figured would be plenty…until I tasted one little piece of cantaloupe I saved out of the jars…now I realize these will be better after they have a chance to sit, like all homemade pickles do, but I am here to tell you these things are great! The sweetness of the spices, fruit and sugar with the tang of the vinegar are super yummy. So my experiment in thriftiness paid off…who would-da thunk…

1 comment:

  1. Only you would remember that somewhere you had a recipe for pickled cantalope! Mercy! Who would have thunk it indeed! : )