Compressed Watermelon & Cantaloupe Infused with Honey, Mint and Lime
Recipe By: Chef Eric Villegas
Fifteen or more years ago I had the VacMaster SVP-20, a beast of a machine, installed in my restaurant.If any of you readers have spent any time in a commercial kitchen with that type of tech invariably anything and everything will find its way into the chamber, compressed and sealed in plastic. It wasn’t unusual to find a perfectly compressed wallet or cell phone bubbling away in a stockpot or suspended in a brick of Jello.
In those first few months we literally vacuum packed everything in sight and then one day my staff offered me vacuum packed honeydew melon. I was taken aback by not only the color but the texture of the melon as well, should fresh fruit look this way? I initially shied away from the idea despite their efforts but in the coming weeks and months I had a change of heart and began to embrace it. Nowadays compressed fruits are popular menu items found in restaurants from coast to coast as well as a favorite of my family.
So whats the deal? Well, most fruits have tiny air pockets in them. When vacuum packing fruit some of that air is pushed out of the space between cells and consequently collapse resulting in a more concentrated product. The compressed fruit is considerably denser resulting in a texture that almost feels as though its cooked, while the color has intensified acquiring an almost dreamy, translucent like quality. It’s quite a wonderful technique with the fruit gaining an entirely new appeal. But wait, there’s more! Let’s introduce additional flavors into the bag, perhaps a bit of honey, herbs, citrus or even spirits. Now, not only are you compressing the fruit but you're also infusing it at the same time with flavors of your choosing, the possibilities obviously, are endless. Compressed and infused fruits are a wonderful way to make anything old, new again.
- 4 cups watermelon, seedless, chunks (1 inch)
- 4 cups cantaloupe, seeded, chunks (1 inch)
- 1/4 cup lime juice, fresh
- 1/4 cup honey
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup mint leaves, torn
- Coarse salt
1. In a medium size non reactive bowl mix the honey, mint, lime, salt and cayenne mix thoroughly.
2. Divide the cut melon between two or three large vacuum bags and equally divide the honey mixture.
3. Vacuum pack each bag on the highest setting.
4. When ready to serve remove the melons from the bags and drain.
5. Serve with freshly whipped cream and fresh mint leaves