The cucurbitaceae family reunion is full of all types. The sturdy, steadfast grown-ups of the group are the pumpkins and winter squash. They’re hardworking and seasoned; intimidating at first, but rosy and sweet once you get past their tough exteriors. The gourds, bulbous and freckled, are eccentric great aunts, strange and special. Visiting from Mexico, chayote cousins socialize with zucchini and summer squash along with the baby pattypans. Nobody knows quite what to make of those strange in-laws, the luffas.
Every year, the melons are the life of the party. They’re always first to crack open the vodka or oil up for a dip in the pool. Big, eager, and syrupy sweet, they’re all juice and spitting seeds and sticky cheeks. Cucumbers, the sullen teenagers of the family, find them eye-rollingly chummy. Cukes are aloof and reserved, with a faint note of bitter superiority.
Just as every family needs introverts and extroverts, the personalities of cucumbers and melons balance one another. In this agua fresca, the melon sweetness tempers the herbal, vegetal notes of cucumber juice. Softened with citrus and mint, since mojitos make almost any family gathering more fun, the resulting beverage is refreshing and sophisticated, but still a touch sweet. Serve it well-chilled at your next family gathering.
Cucumber Melon Agua Fresca
Use a yellow or green-fleshed melon such as Honeydew, Galia, or Canary for this recipe. It’s still tasty with an orange melon, but the color of the finished product is far less appetizing.
- ½ of a ripe white, green or yellow-fleshed melon, seeded, peeled and cut into chunks (about 2¼ pounds total)
- 2 medium cucumbers (about 1½ pounds total)
- 3 sprigs mint, leaved picked from stems
- Juice of 2 lemons or limes
- 1-2 cups cold water
Without peeling, slice cucumbers and pack into a blender. Add a 1/4 cup water. Pulse the blender, pushing the fruit down as necessary, until all of the cucumbers have begun to break down. Then, allow the blender to run on high speed for about a minute to completely liquefy them.
Line a fine sieve with two layers of damp cheesecloth, and place the strainer into a large bowl. Pour cucumber pulp into the sieve and allow juice to drain completely into the bowl (about ten minutes), stirring pulp occasionally to release as much juice as possible.
While cucumber juice drains, layer melon and mint leaves in the blender (no need to rinse it out). Depending on the size of your blender, you may need to do two batches. Repeat the same pattern of pulsing and then liquefying the melon and mint together. The melon will likely be juicy enough that you won’t need to add liquid, but if yours doesn’t begin to break down after a few pulses, add a quarter cup of water.
Once cucumber has thoroughly drained, gather the corners of the cheesecloth together, twist, and squeeze over the bowl to release any remaining juice. Discard cucumber pulp and flatten out the cheesecloth in the sieve to repeat the process with the melon.
Repeat the draining and squeezing process with the melon mint mixture.
Measure your cucumber juice – you should have about two cups – and pour into a pitcher. Measure the melon juice. You should have about four cups. As long as the ratio of your finished agua fresca is roughly 1 part cucumber juice to 2 parts melon juice it won’t matter if you have slightly more or less of either. Pour melon mint juice into pitcher with the cucumber juice.
Add lemon or lime juice and cold water to taste. You want the finished product to taste like a balanced blend of cucumber and melon, herbal and fresh. Serve over plenty of ice and drink within a day or two.
An alumna of Fair Food, Philabundance and Greener Partners, EMILY TEEL is a food freelancer profoundly dedicated to sustainable, delicious food in Philadelphia. See more of her work at emilyteel.com