Melon

Melon

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From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

It is hard to say whether the fragrance, the flavour or the cool refreshment of a melon is the most enjoyable thing about it. These luxurious members of the gourd family have been celebrated down the centuries as food fit for kings. There are many varieties which fall into two quite different types, musk or watermelons for eating fresh; and jam melons which have little flavour uncooked but make good jam.

A musk melon (for example cantaloupe or rockmelon, honeydew, Charentais) should be firm and heavy for its size. A rockmelon (cantaloupe) should have a clean scar at the stem end; any roughness or stem left on is a sign that the melon was picked before it was mature and will lack flavour. A honeydew should show a slight yellowing of the skin. There should be no moist or soft spots, but if it is fully ripe, the melon will yield slightly if pressed gently between the hands, and will be fragrant.

A watermelon should have a bloom on the skin, and the underside, where it rested on the ground, should be yellowish, not white or green. The melon should sound hollow when tapped. If buying cut melon, the flesh should be deep pink without white streaks, and the seeds very dark.

Store fully ripe melons in a cool, airy place, or in a tightly closed plastic bag, to avoid scenting other food, in the refrigerator. Keep slightly underripe melons in a warm room for a few days before refrigerating. Always remove melon from the refrigerator 30 minutes or so before serving, as it should be only slightly chilled for best flavour.

Ways to use melon: An unadorned wedge of ripe melon, eaten in the sun, can hardly be bettered, but melon is wonderfully versatile – an excellent accompaniment to many savoury foods and superb for dessert.

Use it, alone or with vegetables, for salads; serve it as a sambal with curries; wrap cubes of rockmelon or honeydew in thin strips of ham and serve on toothpicks as a party savoury.

Serve with a sprinkle of lemon juice and ground ginger or mace for breakfast.

Dice it or cut it into balls and dress with lemon juice and chopped mint for a first course.

Cut it into thin crescents and serve with prosciutto as a classic and beautiful way to start a meal.

Garnish chicken, lamb or seafood salad with melon.

Use small melon halves, scooped out, as containers for ice cream or fruit salad, or a large watermelon shell to hold prepared fruits on a buffet table. Use it in fruit cups and fruit salads.

Cut a small, deep plug out of a ripe watermelon and pour in a little gin or rum every hour or so for a day; chill overnight and serve next day as a refresher that’s definitely not for children.

To cut melon wedges: To serve a melon wedge ready to eat with a fork, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, then use a sharp knife to cut between flesh and rind, from end to end. Cut the flesh across into small blocks and pull these pieces out, alternating to left and right, to extend 2 cm or so beyond the edge of the rind.

To make melon balls: Halve musk melons and remove seeds; cut watermelon into large wedges or slices. Leave melon on shell and, holding it in one hand, press the open side of a melon baller firmly into the flesh until the rounded side touches it. Twist the baller to cut out a neat ball of flesh.

To vandyke a melon: Vandyking or cutting a saw-tooth edge is a good finish for melon halves. Mark the equator of the melon with a few toothpicks as a guide, if you wish. Place the point of a small, sharp knife on the equator and holding the knife on the slant, push it in all the way to the centre. Starting at the bottom of the first cut, make another in the same way but slanting in the opposite direction. Make the third cut from the top of the second one and continue, alternating angles, all the way round. Gently pull and twist the melon apart and remove the seeds. If the halves are to be used as shells to hold food, remove most of the flesh with a sharp spoon, leaving a wall about 1 cm thick. Cut a very thin slice from the base to make the melon half stand level on the plate.

Ingredients

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