A different kind of melon enhancement.
It’s said that all you have to do is take one whiff of a Pecos cantaloupe to know it’s the real deal. That seductive smell equals summer in certain parts of Texas, inspiring folks to hop in their cars and make a beeline for roadside stands heaped high with the homely orbs, their sturdy countenance belying the creamy, coral-hued sweetness inside. No doubt you’ve indulged in wedges sprinkled with a little salt or hollowed-out halves filled with vanilla ice cream, but who among you has had a slice of cantaloupe pie? As anachronistic as the elegant railroad dining car for which it was created, it’s an uncommon confection attributed to Edward Pierce, a College Station native and 42-year employee of the Texas and Pacific Railway. (It was the T&P, in fact, that introduced the country to the Pecos cantaloupe roughly a century ago when its dining service contracted to buy the fruit from M. L. Todd, a local farmer whose little patch of alkaline soil in arid West Texas was producing some mighty fine specimens.) A resourceful sort, Pierce couldn’t tolerate the wasteful disposal of overripe cantaloupes and came up with a dessert that quickly became a menu favorite. In 1992, after Pierce had retired, Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer Anita Baker found him living in the city and happily on board with sharing his recipe.
1 fully ripe cantaloupe (preferably Pecos, of course)
3 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 stick butter
5 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1 9-inch baked pie shell
5 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
sugar, to taste
Cut the cantaloupe into smallish chunks and cook over low heat until soft enough to mash. Add flour, nutmeg, butter, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup sugar. Continue cooking, stirring constantly until thick. Cool and pour into baked pie shell.
To make meringue, beat egg whites until stiff, adding vanilla and sugar. Cover pie with meringue and brown slightly under the broiler. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before serving.