Citron Melon Again, for Dessert

A few of the seeds had started to sprout.

A few of the seeds had started to sprout.

Every day this winter I’ve eyed my citron melons in the entry hall, admiring their summery beauty and wondering how long they would keep. Some people say they store well for a whole year, but I’m guessing that’s true only in a quite cool place, such as an unheated cellar. The temperature in my entry hall is usually about sixty degrees Fahrenheit, probably not cool enough to warrant pushing my luck past February. Last week I figured that, though I didn’t need more citron melon preserves, I also didn’t want to lose the chance to experiment more with the melons, which I might never grow again. So I cut into a second one.

Although citron melons are notorious for their hard rinds, I’d had no trouble cutting my first melon, back in December. This time the rind seemed to have toughened. I sympathized with the writer of a poem, published in the Burra, Australia, Record in 1935, that begins this way:

There ain’t no dish I’d rather try
Than my dear wife’s good melon pie.
I get a melon from the pit
And take the axe and open it.

slicing citron melonInstead of an axe I used my twelve-inch chef’s knife, which Robert bought me for cutting big winter squashes. I’ve been a little bit scared of this knife ever since the day it flew into the air and I caught it by the blade instead of the handle. Now I often use the knife by holding it in place and pounding it with a rubber hammer (which as you can see I also use for closing paint cans).

Peeling citron melonThat worked to split the melon cleanly. Cutting the halves into wedges, as I’d done to make citron melon preserves, would be too difficult and dangerous, because besides growing a tougher skin the melon had also become more mucilaginous, as if someone had injected it with a quart of aloe juice. My hands and cutting board were already slippery. I tried spooning out the pulp, but that was slow going. So I used a technique I often rely on for another hard fruit, the quince. I turned the halves face down and sliced them straight downward. Then, using a smaller, thinner blade, I cut the rind from the slices without much trouble.

Now I needed to remove the big, hard, numerous seeds. I picked as many as I could out of the sliced flesh, cut the slices into smaller pieces, and picked out more seeds. This is a job to do while listening to an excellent radio program, so you don’t start dwelling on the question of what your time is worth.

Although I hadn’t found a single pie recipe for this fruit that’s often called a pie melon, I‘d found two recipes for compotes of sorts, one in Mildred Maddocks’s Pure Food Cook Book, published in New York in 1914, and one from an unnamed cook in Queensland, who described the fruit as “So country! So winter! So not dinner party material.”
I based my recipe less on Mildred’s than on the Queenslander’s, which included, enticingly, cinnamon and marsala. Lacking marsala, I used brandy.

Although the Queenslander used only a quarter of a melon, her other quantities seemed about right for my five-pound melon; this made me wonder just how big citron melons grow in Queensland. I wonder also if the flesh of Queensland pie melons is especially tender, because whereas the Queenslander cooks her compote for about forty minutes, mine needed two hours for the melon to soften.

As these differences indicate, melons called citron or pie melon can vary a lot. Mine are striped, white-fleshed, red-seeded, and tasteless. If yours vary from this description, you may need to adjust the recipe.

Baked Citron Melon Compote

½ cup raisins
¼ cup brandy
1 5-pound citron melon
1 cup sugar
1 orange
1 lemon
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons butter

Soak the raisins in the brandy for at least several hours.

Peel and seed the melon, and cut it into approximately 1-inch cubes. Heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove the zest from the orange and lemon in fine strips, and then squeeze out the juice, picking or straining out any seeds.

citron melon ready for ovenIn a three-quart casserole, combine the raisins, their soaking liquid, the melon cubes, the sugar, and the orange and lemon juices and zests. Tuck the cinnamon sticks into the mixture, and dot with the butter. Bake the compote uncovered for about two hours, turning the fruit gently a few times, until the melon is tender, golden, and slightly translucent.

 

You can serve the compote warm or cool, perhaps with cream, though I like it plain.

Baked citron melon compoteThe compote turned out mildly sweet. If you think you’d like it sweeter, honey would be a pleasant addition. The fruit’s mucilaginous texture remained after baking, but neither Robert nor I found it objectionable; I think it’s growing on me. Because the melon is virtually tasteless, all the flavor of the dish comes from the added flavorings–the raisins, brandy, cinnamon, and citrus. How could a dessert with those flavors be anything but good?

As the Queenslander points out, you could make this dish into a pie by thickening the liquid (with cornstarch or arrowroot or just by simmering it down a bit), spooning the fruit and liquid into a baked pie shell, and perhaps adding a topping of cream or meringue. I like the compote just as it is, though, for breakfast or an afternoon or late-evening snack, and maybe even as a homey dinner-party dessert.

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About Linda Ziedrich

I grow, cook, preserve, and write about food in Oregon's Willamette Valley.
This entry was posted in Food history, Fruits, Wild foods and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Citron Melon Again, for Dessert

  1. narf77 says:

    Hi Linda, not just Queensland! We called them “Paddy Melons” and they grow bigger than watermelons with the right conditions (heat and water and space ;) ). Mum used to make litres of melon jam and chutneys as it’s such a good carrier. You can’t find them these days to be honest, aside from the odd one growing in a farmers paddock. They are scarce! If I DO find some I will make these wonderful sounding preserves but I doubt that here in Tasmania we would find any because they have very strict quarantine laws.

  2. Heather says:

    Yesterday and today I made batches of Melon, lemon and ginger jam from melons that I grew in Canberra from seed purchased online from a Tasmanian seed supplier, sold as Jam Melons. The packet had that they grew to 5kg, but the first one that I picked was 13.5kg. The other seven on the two vines are just as big and the vines haven’t stopped growing yet. Paddy melons grow wild along the side of roads etc and are not edible even to hungry animals.

    • That’s a big melon, Heather! Did it have white, bland flesh and red seeds? Are the paddy melons growing along the sides of the roads bitter?

      • Heather says:

        Yes, to both questions. The paddy melons are bitter and I wouldn’t touch one! My jam melons, actually ten in all as several were well hidden, are the ones with the bland cream flesh and red seeds, aslo known as citron melons. BTW, the largest of the melons was 14.5kg! If Marff77 likes to contact me somehow, I’d be happy to send her some seeds.

  3. Pingback: Aug 30, 2013. Citron Melons, Pie Melons, Paddy Melons and Jam Melons. As Country as you can get. | Heat in the Kitchen

  4. Michele Vernazzaro says:

    I’ll try this recipe, I have them growing all over my horse pastures. These melons aren’t bitter but don’t have much taste – but probably good for a base. Anyone want seeds? My horses won’t touch them

    • Michele, where do you live? Also, I’m curious to know whether your horses will eat the melons if you break them open. Regarding the lack of taste: I’ve come to think that the appeal of citron melons is textural. That viscous, softly chewy texture can grow on you.

  5. Michele Vernazzaro says:

    Yes I opened them when I determined they’re edible- no go I guess if they were starving they would. I live in Florida, Lecanto west coast north of Tampa & my melons are growing all over, going to try recipe above – I’m not very domestic tho have canning facilities available

  6. Michele Vernazzaro says:

    experimented w/ the recipe above – turned out differently, used cinnamon brandy and mandarin oranges. Delicious but didn’t look like picture above, will play w/ it some more – have plenty of melons! Also I have plenty of seeds if any anyone wants them

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