Saturday, March 2, 2013

Dueling Cantaloupes, The Return Fire

The first recipe for Cantaloupe Pie from Dining in the Diner did not work out the way I think it was intended.  Now is the chance for the second recipe, this one from The Historical Cookbook of the American Negro, to have its shot.

On page 90 and dedicated to Mary Church Terrell, one of the first African-American women to earn a bachelor's degree in the United States (, is the recipe.

Cantaloupe Pie

1 large canteloupe [sic]
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large pastry shell

I didn't put the pastry shell in the picture

Cut canteloupe [sic] in halves, remove seeds, cut up pulp and put into a double boiler with sugar.  Mix cornstarch with a little cold water and add to canteloupe.  After mixture thickens add beaten egg yolks and salt and cook a little longer.  Cool  Pour into baked pastry shell.  Spread with meringue made from egg whites and 1/4 cup sugar, flavored with lemon.  Brown meringue in oven at 325 degrees.  Cool before serving.

My Process
Instead of cutting up the pulp, I put the peeled, chunked cantaloupe through the shredder of my food processor.  After all, it worked so well for yesterday's recipe!  It takes very little time and I appreciated that.

When I added the sugar, I stirred until it was all dissolved before I added the cornstarch solution.  Also, I had the double boiler already simmering before I put in the cantaloupe.

It took a long time to cook the mixture in the double boiler.  About an hour, with me occasionally giving it a stir and checking on the temperature.  It was the longest thickening-with-cornstarch experience I have had!  The nice part is I didn't have to worry about overcooking the cornstarch and losing the thickening feature.

It was a little hard to tell when the mixture was thick enough to add the egg yolks and salt.  When I looked at the pictures it was obvious -- before it was thick it looked juicy and afterwards it looked creamy.  The cornstarch, when first added, made the mix look cloudy but that only went away a little bit once it was cooked since the cantaloupe juice is somewhat cloudy on its own.

Getting hot but still liquidy

It looks thicker

But I guessed when it was thick enough and then cooked the mixture about five minutes longer once I added the yolks.  Then I put the whole thing out on the counter to cool before I put it into the refrigerator.

There was more filling than would fit the crust so I tasted the leftovers.  Oh my!  What I got was a fresh cantaloupe flavor, lightly sweet, and very appealing.  The previous recipe was sweeter and a little more cloying and, although I originally liked the nutmeg flavor in it, in a re-taste, the nutmeg was more of a shocking flavor than nice.  I definitely liked this version's flavor better.

After an hour or so in the 'fridge the mixture was cool enough and thick enough I was willing to put it into the crust.  Then the entire pie went into the 'fridge with hopes it would get solid enough to be viable.  I figured I would put the meringue on later.

It took several hours but it looked thick enough to warrant putting on the meringue.

Then I browned the meringue first in the 325 degree oven (for ten minutes) as suggested, which dried it nicely but did not do more than brown the tips.  So I switched it to under the broiler and was pleased with the results.

It went back into the 'fridge to chill out before the grand taste-test.

The Verdict
I would call it a "success"!  Although the filling was not as thick as I'd like it to be, it was still thick enough to cut and maintain its shape.  It took another day before I felt like the juicy part was starting to soak through the crust, although that was not a bad thing.

I liked the flavor -- still fresh and not too sweet -- much better than the first recipe.  There was more filling than would fit in the crust, so I got to eat that separately (another treat!).  My guess is that our modern cantaloupes are bigger on average than what was available in the 1940s to 1950s and that is why I had so much trouble getting the filling to thicken correctly.  If I made this again, I would add more cornstarch.  I would would also consider using a puree of cantaloupe to see if I liked the smoother texture better.

Either way, the flavor was lovely, especially if you like cantaloupe, and I do.

I would recommend this recipe over the first unless you really love the flavor of nutmeg.

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