I spend a lot of time in the produce sections of my local market and farmer’s market.
I know all the stockists and they all know me. We talk chiles and cherimoya, squash and sweet potatoes, beans and blackberries. And then we braid each other’s hair and talk about Downton Abbey.
So you can imagine that it’s pretty rare for me to find something in store that I’ve never, ever seen before…
enter the Santa Claus melon.
It’s true! And there’s the produce sticker to prove it! I couldn’t resist and picked the prettiest one from the basket to bring home, without even knowing what was in happening on the inside.
A bit of intrepid research revealed that Santa Clauses, or pieles de sapo, are indigenous to Arizona and southern California, and earned their English moniker because of their ability to last and last and last… until Christmastime!
So on top of being pretty, and sweet, and all kinds of refreshing, you can keep your Claus for months! Dig!
I should note that you don’t have to use a Santa Claus melon to make this agua fresca; any old melon will do. But if you’re looking to approximate the flavor of a Santa, go with honeydew. Either way, this technique for making melon agua will do you well, and having a pitcher of melon agua fresca on hand on hot summer days will do you double well.
Just don’t forget your garnish! Garnish is fun and festive and no one (except possibly Mr. E. Scrooge) doesn’t like it! I opted to garnish my Santa Claus Agua Fresca with chubby, bright red Maraschino cherries. Why? Because that’s what Santa would do.
Santa Claus Agua Fresca
1 large, ripe Santa Claus melon (any large, ripe melon will do here, especially honeydew or cantaloupe)
1/4 c. white sugar, granulated
8 sprigs cilantro
10 cups water
Maraschino cherries for garnish (optional)
Halve the melon, remove its seeds, and scrape the flesh from the rind. Place the melon flesh, sugar, and cilantro into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until uniform.
Pass the processed mixture through a fine mesh sieve, using a rubber spatula to force the liquids out. Discard remaining solids and pour the sieved juice into a large pitcher. Stir in water, garnish, and serve. Note that I generally opt to store my agua fresca in the refrigerator instead of adding ice in order to keep from diluting the flavor.
YIELD: approximately three fourths of a gallon