Even at my age, summer in the South conjures up childhood memories of the many ways we fought to stay cool on those sticky hot, horrendously humid Louisiana days. It amazes me today at the simplicity of those times and how we savored the most ordinary events in our life like hand-cranked ice cream.
Back then, we made our own ice cream, not because we had to, but simply because it was a family event; we made memories that lasted a lifetime, and it tasted so, so good. Not vanilla, not chocolate, but in South Louisiana, handcrafted ice cream was almost always an expression of the ripest and tastiest fruits that were in season at the time–like melons.
Sun Jewel melons are exceptionally sweet and whenever I see them piled up at the Gotreaux Family Farm stand at the Hub City farmer’s market in Lafayette, I load up. Melon Ice Cream made with sweet ripe melon spiked with some of Mr. Bernard’s local honey from the Atchafalaya levee road in Henderson, Louisiana is the cooling call of this Acadiana afternoon.
Another memory made.
- 6 ripe Sun Jewel melons or any ripe melon
- 2 tablespoons local honey
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish
- Slice the melons open and remove the seeds and membrane. Remove the melon pulp from the rind and cut into cubes. Puree in a blender until smooth. Add the honey and lemon juice. Place in a container, cover and refrigerate.
- In a medium-sized saucepan over low heat, combine the half and half and cream. Cook slowly and constantly stir as water vapor bubbles begin to reduce the mixture, about 10 minutes Remove from heat.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks until velvety adding the sugar gradually until infused in thick ribbons of smooth yellow. While slowly whisking the egg yolks introduce the hot cream gradually bringing the eggs to temperature. Pour the tempered eggs into the saucepan combining with the entire cream mixture over low heat. Continue cooking the custard on low heat while stirring being careful not to let it boil. After 10 minutes, test to see that it coats the back of a spoon and stop the cooking and remove from heat.
- Into an ice-cold metal mixing bowl, strain the custard through a very fine mesh strainer to remove any bits of egg. Slice open the vanilla bean pod and remove the pulp to combine with the custard. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes, whisking once every minute.
- Once the mixture is completely cooled, cover with a plastic wrap directly over the mixture and place in the coldest part of the refrigerator for two hours or as long as overnight.
- Remove the custard and strain over a fine mesh strainer. In a mixing bowl, combine with the pureed melon mixture.
- Place the mixture into a well-chilled container of your ice cream maker and freeze according to the instructions.
- Serve in individually chilled bowls garnished with a sprig of mint, or for a dramatic presentation, scoop the ice cream into the hulled-out cavity of Sun Jewel melon halves.
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