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Rocky Ford Cantaloupes LOVE Cheese

By August 20, 2016 Parings, Salumi No Comments
Muffin and Cantaloupe

It’s Rocky Ford Cantaloupe Season!

If you’ve ever had a Rocky Ford cantaloupe, you’ll know why we are excited.  It’s so hard to be satisfied with any other cantaloupe after you’ve had the “best in class.”

Cantaloupe, Mozzarella and Prosciutto

Cantaloupe, Mozzarella and Prosciutto

We were reminded of that a couple weeks ago when a friend brought us an early Rocky Ford. Oh my goodness.  It was summer in a bite!

Craving more, we went to the store to get some cantaloupe.  But when we tasted it, it was like a different fruit altogether.  It wasn’t even remotely as sweet and juicy! So where are the Rocky Fords!

Well, they’re just beginning to trickle into the supermarkets now. That’s because this year’s Rocky Ford season is starting late thanks to hail and harsh weather, which means the melon we bought wasn’t one of the state’s treasures.  The silver lining to our early August disappointment is that the late start means a late end.  This year’s season will last longer than ever – perhaps well into September.

Ok, so why is a cheese shop writing about cantaloupes? In our case, it’s for several reasons.

1. We are all about eating local, eating seasonally and supporting Colorado businesses

2. We are all about supporting hard working farmers. (We tried it for a few years.  It’s harder than we ever imagined so we have tremendous respect for anyone who keeps at it.  If you are curious, here’s an album of us starting our farm and one of us running our farm).

3. It turns out that cantaloupe is a great pair with cheese.

How to Pair Cantaloupes + Cheese

Here are some of our favorite pairings.

  1. Fresh Goat Cheese + Cantaloupe
    The tangy goat cheese flavors and the sweet melon flavors create a refreshingly light, but hearty flavor combination.One way we like to use this combo is in a salad.  We cube cantaloupe and put it in a bowl. Drizzle lime juice and some olive oil over the melon.  Sprinkle on a little salt.  Crumble some goat cheese over it and add some mint leaves.  Enjoy!Another variation, add some heirloom tomatoes and basil instead of the mint leaves.
  1. Mozzarella + Cantaloupe with Balsamic Glaze
    This is two classic summer flavors in one bite, with some oomph!  Our best preparation for this combination is a skewer of cantaloupe, a small mozzarella ball (called a bocconcini), some prosciutto and a basil leaf.  Drizzle some quality balsamic glaze over it and enjoy.A note about balsamic glaze.  If you haven’t tried it, you need to.  It’s balsamic vinegar reduced to a sweet, thick glaze.  We use it on everything: caprese salads , bruschetta, berries, or anywhere that a sweet, acidic note will enhance a dish.
  1. Rocky Ford Canaloupe and Blue Cheese

    Rocky Ford Canaloupe and Blue Cheese

    Blue Cheese + Cantaloupe
    The sweet flavors of a Rocky Ford cantaloupe are a perfect pair with a big , slightly salty blue cheese.  It’s the classic salty-sweet combination.  Want to take it one step further? Enjoy it with a glass of lightly sweet Riesling.  You can’t get a better recipe for a Friday evening on the patio!Still want more?  We found this great recipe for Melon with Blue Cheese and Black Pepper that involves stewing your cantaloupe and adding a salad and some balsamic vinegar.

  1. Parmigiano Reggiano + Cantaloupe
    We know not everyone loves blue cheese. That’s ok.  We won’t judge.  We’ll just offer another, possibly more approachable, salty-sweet combo.  Try cantaloupe and Parmigiano Reggiano.  You get the sweet of the cantaloupe and the salt of the cheese without the powerful blue cheese taste.  This combo would also be great with some balsamic glaze drizzled on the cheese.  Now you’ve got sweet-salty-sweet (Melon-Cheese-Glaze).

Add Salumi

Because we love salumi almost as much as cheese, we usually work some prosciutto or other cured meat into our cantaloupe and melon combos.  The classic, of course, is to skewer some Rocky Ford cantaloupe and wrap it in prosciutto. Simple and delicious.

Or you can step it up:

  • We also love these Prosciutto Purses. You basically wrap a ball of cantaloupe in prosciutto (like a package) and then place it on a triangle of Parmigiano Reggiano.
  • Salami “Bowls” with Cantaloupe.
Salami Cups with Cantaloupe + Balsamic Glaze

Salami Cups with Cantaloupe, Basil + Balsamic Glaze

This might be our favorite of all, though.  It’s really easy.  You make

a “Salumi bowl” by placing salumi slices in a muffin tin, press in firmly to form a cup and bake for out of salumi 8 to 10 minutes at 400 degrees.

When they are done, fill them with diced cantaloupe, some shredded basil and then drizzle Balsamic glaze over them.This might be our favorite of all, though.

Try It for Yourself!

By now, you are probably sensing the theme here.  Combine Rocky Ford cantaloupe, some good cheese, some basil or mint and some balsamic glaze for a delicious summer salad or appetizer.

We encourage you to experiment and find your own great pairing. We can help you with the cheese, salumi and balsamic parts.  And we can recommend a wine to accompany whatever you choose to make if you like.

Or join us for our Cheese + Wine 101 class on September 8 where one course will feature a Rocky Ford pairing.

More Ways to Enjoy Rocky Ford Cantaloupes

Two of our favorite food and beverage purveyors are showing their Rocky Ford love in the coming weeks.

  • Cantaloupe Jam from The Preservery. RINO’s buzziest new fresh-from-the-fields-restaurant, run by good friends of ours, is creating a Hirakata Farms organic cantaloupe jam that will appear on their late-summer sandwich.
  • Cantaloupe Beer from CO-Brew! Yes! They are brewing a Hirakata Farms organic cantaloupe gose beer: a crisp German-style wheat beer with a hint of saltiness offset by the sweetness of Rocky Ford cantaloupe.
  • Enter to Win!
    Stop by the store and enter to win a Rocky Ford Cantaloupe Gift Basket. Includes a bomber of “Worth the Wait” Cantaloupe Gose, The Preservery’s Cantaloupe Jelly and a Cheese Pairing from us.

Closing Thoughts

Regardless of how you choose to enjoy this year’s Rocky Ford crop, let’s all enjoy the last blast of summer taste before the temperatures start to drop.  But it’s nice to know that if they do, we can extend the summer season a little bit later this year, at least in our kitchens, thanks to the late Rocky Ford season.