On my summer crusade for a new agua fresca each week [or so], I looked for a grapefruit agua fresca. And I looked. And I could not find one. The combination that keeps coming up is Watermelon Grapefruit Agua Fresca. This recipe is distinguished in that you do not have water as an ingredient: all the basic liquid comes from the watermelon. You get a flavor intensity and viscosity that really can only come from creating a fine puree and then filtering out the “bigger” stuff. And, you get this color, this dramatic vampire-red color.
What about the grapefruit? Why not just add grapefruit juice to water? I think it would be too temperamental. Of all the citrus juices, grapefruit is the most variable. It can be sweet, it can be bitter. You just never know what to expect. By using the watermelon juice, you have a very stable base, one that provides natural sweetness. Now the grapefruit juice is merely an amendment, one that renders the final beverage less sensitive to the particular features of your current grapefruit.
I tasted this without adding sugar, and then I added sugar. The difference was an intensification of flavor that I believe is both delicious and necessary. Follow my lead and make the core beverage, then sweeten to satisfy your palate.
The taste here is substantial and very refreshing. The liquid can certainly be the base for cocktail experiments. Some vodka, a little rum, and you’ll be recognized as an up-and-coming mixologist.
Watermelon Grapefruit Agua Fresca
Yield: 1 pitcher full Ingredients:
- 1 ripe watermelon, 10 pounds
- 1 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
- ½ cup sugar
Get the meat out of the watermelon. Cut the watermelon in half, cut the halves in half, then halve the quarters. Using a sharp knife carefully glide along the skin of the watermelon and liberate the meat. Cut the meat into modest chucks and put into your blender. You’ll have enough for two or three rounds of pureeing. Process each batch for a least one minute. Then pour the mixture through a sieve into a bowl. Press the contents of the sieve with a spatula to extract much of the juice.
For a 10 pound watermelon, you will have a cup or more of residue in the sieve that goes into the sink, not the pitcher. If you love “texture” then pulp away and put it in the pitcher, but agua frescas achieve part of their refreshment value from the sheer smoothness of the liquid.
Add the grapefruit juice, stir to mix, and taste test. Add sugar as needed or preferred. The surface of the liquid will have some scum on it. Use a slotted spoon to remove as much as you can — some bubbles will keep forming as you can see in the picture. Pour the mixture into a pitcher and chill.
Sources: Brian O’Rourke
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/2.8 for 1/100th second at ISO-3200
Seattle turns out to be border town. No, not the Canadian border. The Mexican.
Seattle is one of these “Northern” cities that have a distinctly “Southern” flavor. The influx of Mexicans, and others from Central and South America, has been steady and permeates the society. From restaurants and food carts and trucks to congregations of day labors outside every Home Depot and Lowes, there is a Latin aspect to every neighborhood in the city.
Many of the restaurants are, thankfully, not Tex Mex establishments. People have come from every region of Mexico and you can find excellent regional establishments. For example, the northern neighborhood of Ballard was created a hundred years ago by Scandinavian fishermen and lumbermen. Today, most of those families are gone. And on Ballard Avenue, just at the top of the hill, you will find La Carta de Oxaca.
There is a rumor, I am sure started by tequila makers, that it is tequila — and only tequila — that can erase the fire of the hottest Mexican food. Oxaca is the culinary soul of Mexico and, yes, that particular food can be oh so hot. And, no, that tequila rumor is total nonsense. I was guzzling a margarita two weeks ago in La Carta de Oxaca and I am sure I saw the waitress giggle at me. It was gasoline on an open fire.
Wisely, cleverly, I had ordered the agua fresca of the day, along with my margarita. The margarita, ineffective at fire control, how powerful taste. My cantaloupe agua fresca was sweetly, coolly delicious and cured the heat.
This recipe is mine, an amalgam of several pulled from the web. At La Carta, my agua fresca was very sweet. Suzen had tasted it and grimaced. She always does with something that is very sweet. She grimaces when I kiss her. I understand. I do.
Well, this recipe calls for ¼ cup of sugar. It’s a bit tart, but adjustments can be made. You can never be sure how sweet the cantaloupe itself is, you can always add a little more sugar [I did, a couple of teaspoons of brown sugar for my cocktail glass pictured above], and you have this immense power to play with actual sweeteners you employ: white sugar, brown, agave syrup, simple syrup, or honey in any of its many flavors.
I’m confident you will enjoy this beverage. And every time you make it, the taste will have shifted, a bit or a lot.
You may have made strawberry agua fresca, which can have a very strong flavor. Here, the cantaloupe is softer, subtler, but every bit as refreshing.
Make a pitcher of this agua fresca. Then go forth in confidence that the jalapeno‑serrano‑poblano‑chipotle wonder you are making will not be the downfall of your tongue.
Brian’s Cantaloupe Agua Fesca
Yield: serves 4 to 6
- 1 cantaloupe, about 4 cups net
- 2 cups of water
- 4 Mexican limes
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 more cups of water
Clean the outside of the cantaloupe, the cut in half. Remove the seeds, vertically slice, and remove the meat in long moon-shaped crescents.
Put the cantaloupe meat and 2 cups of water in your blender. You may need to divide this step in two, depending on the size of your blender. We have a Vitamix and can do this in one step.
Blend well, strain, and pour the strained liquid into a 1-quart pitcher. Add the juice of the 4 limes and the sugar. Stir to mix. Taste test — this first test is just for a rough check.
Chill for at least an hour. Redo your taste test. Quite possibly, you’ll want a little more sugar.
Serve over ice.
Source: Brian O’Rourke
Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for 1/50th second at ISO-1250