August’s bounty of peaches, tomatoes, peppers, and melons scream summer in the Northeast, but their arrival also marks the beginning of the end. I’ve already mentioned how the sight (and, of course, purchase) of local apples a couple weeks back sent a subtle wave of panic over my newbie-canner brain. Waltham Fields’ farm manager and general person-extraordinaire Amanda Cather pointed out in her most recent “Notes from the Field: All in Good Time” that while you can (and very well should) plan for the season, you can’t truly plan when the harvest will happen. When the tomatoes are ready to be picked, they are ready to be picked. Not before, and certainly not after, lest you want rotten toms stinking up your kitchen and garden.
And so the execution of my 2012 can plan has been a slow and steady ascent to where I currently stand: knee-deep in that here-and-now August bounty. This is it, the big push! With a few alterations to my plan in mind (how did I leave out corn salsa? did I really COMPLETELY miss out on red raspberries?), I am stocked and ready to tear it up in the kitchen over the next several weeks.
Now, about that recipe you were likely looking for…
Dried cantaloupe is incredibly easy to make and an absolute boon to families looking for a healthy, no-sugar-added snack. Much like the dried mango pieces I occasionally purchase at Whole Foods, these shelf-stable slices of summer are naturally-sweet and chewy. Who needs a chemical-laden Fruit Roll-Up when you can munch on these? I suppose the cantaloupe (or melon of your choosing) could also be pureed and dehydrated into a fruit leather more similar to said commercial JUNK, but that would require more steps (and more dishes), and I just wasn’t feeling it! I also had peach butter, bread and butter pickles, and plums in the works (all recipes to come soon!) so I kept it simple, per usual.
Makes about 2-3 loosely-packed pint jars
- 2 ripe (here’s how to pick the best!) cantaloupes or similar melon
Wash and pat dry the melons. Cut off the blossom and stem ends; carefully cut away the rind (for the sweetest pieces, be sure to remove all of the green flesh closest to the rind as this will add a slight grassy/earthiness to your preserve… unless, of course, you’re into that). Slice the melon in half; gently scoop out the guts.
Cut each half into 1/2 inch slices, transferring them to dehydrator trays as you go. Set the dehydrator to its manual’s suggested temperature for melon (mine is 135 degrees F).
Much like apple rings, melon should be processed to the point at which the slices feel dry to the touch (a bit of tackiness, but not dampness, should be ok) and moisture droplets do not form upon tearing the fruit; depending on your fruit, location, and cooking atmosphere, this can take anywhere from 8-20+ hours.
Store in airtight containers in a cool, dark, and dry location (50-60 degrees F is optimal) or refrigerate.