Nov 5, 2014

What's Hiding In Your Cantaloupe Rind?

Cantaloupe Rind
The netting can hide Salmonella
One of my favorite melons is cantaloupe. Most of the cantaloupe grown in the U.S. comes from California, however they are also grown here in Hawaii and are the best I have ever eaten because they are picked when they are ripe and sweet, not half ripe and tasteless. They are a heat-loving fruit with a long growing season.

I recently found out that because of their net-like rind, cantaloupe can have special food safety risks such as Salmonella, especially if cut before purchase. I had never heard of that before so I looked it up online and here is what I found out:

Safety of Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe and other melons present special food safety risks. Netted melons like cantaloupe grow on the ground and can come in contact with pathogens in non- composted fertilizer or through handling. Unlike other fruits, cantaloupe are not acidic and readily support the growth of pathogens once they are sliced open. Outbreaks of illness linked to melons contaminated with Salmonella are an unfortunate occurrence each year.

It is recommended by the FDA that consumers take the following steps to reduce the risk of contracting Salmonella or other foodborne illnesses from cantaloupes:

• Purchase cantaloupes that are not bruised or damaged. If buying fresh-cut cantaloupe, be sure it is refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

• After purchase, refrigerate cantaloupes promptly.

• Wash hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling fresh cantaloupes.

• Scrub whole cantaloupes by using a clean produce brush and cool tap water immediately before eating. If you use soap, detergents or bleach water (see note below), be sure to rinse the melon well before slicing.

• Use clean cutting surfaces and utensils when cutting cantaloupes. Wash cutting boards, countertops, dishes, and utensils with hot water and soap between the preparation of raw meat, poultry, or seafood and the preparation of cantaloupe.

• If there happens to be a bruised or damaged area on a cantaloupe, cut away those parts before eating it.

Uncut cantaloupe can be stored refrigerated for 5 or 6 days. Leftover cut cantaloupe should be discarded if left at room temperature for more than two hours. Cut cantaloupe can last in the refrigerator for about 3 days, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.

• Use a cooler with ice or use ice gel packs when transporting or storing cantaloupes outdoors. Sliced or cut melon should never be out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours, 1 hour when it's above 90°F.

Symptoms of foodborne Salmonella infection include: nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. Children are the most likely to get Salmonella. The rate of diagnosed infections in children less than five years old is higher than the rate in all other persons. Young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are the most likely to have severe infections. The infection also poses a particular risk to pregnant woman because it can cause miscarriages and stillbirths. It is estimated that 1.2 million people become ill from Salmonella each year.

Actually there have been quite a few recalls of contaminated cantaloupes associated with a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella. The CDC reported a total of 178 persons were infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium from 21 states in 2012. Nationwide, 62 persons were hospitalized. In Kentucky, two deaths were reported. Cutting, slicing and dicing contaminated cantaloupe may transfer harmful bacteria from the fruit’s surface to the fruit’s flesh. One of the most deadly outbreaks in U.S. history occurred in Colorado when Listeria-contaminated cantaloupes killed more than 30 people and sickened more than 140.

The next time you buy cantaloupe, give them a good scrub before cutting them open. Just remember to keep them off of your kitchen counter and cutting boards before cleaning the outside surface to avoid cross contamination. 

Do yourself a favor and buy a small plastic squirt bottle from the Hardware Store, fill it with water and put 3 or 4 drops of bleach in it. Keep it right on your kitchen counter and use it to decontaminate your counter tops and cutting boards everyday. Bugs don't like bleach. Postharvest practices on cantaloupe farms should include treatment with a sodium hypochlorite or bleach wash to prevent mold and Salmonella growth, but who knows if they did it, so do it yourself. It's better to be safe than sorry, besides who wants to give up eating cantaloupe! 

Here are a few delicious things to do with this beautiful melon:

Coconut-Cantaloupe Balls
1 large cantaloupe
1 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon lime rind zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup flaked coconut
lime slice for garnish

Cut the cantaloup in half and scoop out and discard the seeds.

Use a melon baller or ice cream scoop to form the cantaloupe flesh into balls. Place in a bowl.

Combine orange juice, lime rind zest, lime juice, salt and honey in a bowl. Mix this well and pour over the cantaloupe balls. Chill the cantaloupe mixture thoroughly, about 2 hours, in the refrigerator.

Sprinkle with coconut and garnish with thin slices of lime before serving. Makes about 3 servings.

Cantaloupe Wrapped In Prosciutto 
with Mozzarella Cheese
This is a classic Italian recipe. I had to include it in this list of recipes because it is so easy to make and always makes a big hit as a first course. If you live on Moloka'i, you can purchase prosciutto at Moloka'i Wines and Spirits.

1 whole cantaloupe
12 thin slices of Mozzarella cheese
12 slices of prosciutto, about 1/3 pound

Halve the cantaloupe and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Next, cut each half into sixths, each shaped like a crescent moon, making 12 total slices. Slice along the inside of the rind just above the green portion so that eating doesn't become hard work, discarding the rinds. Place one thin slice of Mozzarella cheese on each slice. Wrap the prosciutto around the middle of each cantaloupe/cheese slice, with the ends of the cantaloupe peeking out. Place one or two on each person's plate. Makes 6 servings.

Spicy Cantaloupe Pineapple Salsa
1 1/2 cups diced cantaloupe
1 cup diced pineapple
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 spicy red pepper (seeded and finely diced)
2 large jalapenos (seeded and finely diced)
Small handful of cilantro chopped
1/2 cup lime juice
Pinch of salt

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and toss to combine well. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Serve with grilled shrimp, barbecued pork, or chicken. Makes about 2 cups.

Honey Sweet Cantaloupe Frozen Yogurt
3 cups cantaloupe, cubed
2/3 cup honey
2 cups plain low fat yogurt

Puree the cantaloupe in a blender or food processor until smooth. Combine with honey. Add the mixture to the yogurt and stir well to combine. Chill in the refrigerator until cold, about 1 hour. Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions, or pour into popsicle molds and freeze until firm.

Cantaloupe Cream Pie
1 pre-baked pie shell

Ingredients for filling:
1 cantaloupe, washed, peeled, seeded, and pureed in blender or food processor
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup water
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Ingredients for topping:
1 (8 oz.) package light cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups fresh whipped cream

Place cantaloupe puree, pinch of salt and sugar in medium sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Dissolve cornstarch in water and lime juice and add to pan while stirring. Simmer mixture while stirring until it begins to thicken.

In a small bowl, lightly beat egg yolks with fork. Gradually add some of the hot melon mixture to the eggs, one spoon at a time, stirring in between to prevent eggs from cooking. Add the warm egg mixture to the pot and simmer while stirring for two more minutes until thickened.

Remove from heat and stir in butter.

Pour melon mixture into pre-baked pie shell and place in refrigerator until cool and firm.

While pie is cooling, whip light cream cheese with sugar, milk and vanilla until soft and smooth. Gently fold in whipped cream. (Do not use canned whipped cream. If not using fresh whipped heavy cream, substitute thawed, frozen whipped topping.)

When pie is cool, spread cream mixture over the top and place pie back in refrigerator until serving time. Serves 8.

Cantaloupe Jam
5 1/2 cups cantaloupe puree, (about two cantaloupes)
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered ginger
3 cups sugar
1 package "no sugar needed pectin"

Puree cantaloupe pieces in a food processor and add, orange extract, ginger and lemon and bring to boil in a large pot. Add pectin and boil for 1 minute. Then add sugar and bring back to a boil for 3 minutes. Ladle into hot, sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Makes 7 half pints.

Frozen Cantaloupe Cocktail
2 cantaloupe cut into 1/2-inch cubes (8 cups)
1 1/2 cups ginger ale 
1/3 cup water 
1 (6-oz.) can frozen limeade concentrate 
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 shot of vodka for each glass (optional)
lime zest to garnish the edges of the glasses

Place cantaloupe cubes in an extra-large zip-top plastic freezer bag, and freeze 8 hours. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes. 

Process half each of cantaloupe, ginger ale, water, limeade concentrate, and ginger in a blender until smooth; pour mixture into a pitcher. Repeat procedure with remaining half of ingredients; stir into pitcher, and serve immediately with or without a shot of vodka in each glass.

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