Baida had given us our second winter melon, organically grown in his Denton, Texas garden. The first one I gave to my sister to use in her cooking. Winter melon is delightful in soups but a melon is just so big you have to find creative ways of using them so I wanted to make candied winter melon. While growing up we ate them as snacks or in baked buns. Have you ever tried them? Candied winter melon is white as snow, hard outside but soft inside, very sweet and addictive.
We always bought them from the store and I had no experience making them. I looked for recipes but most required soaking the winter melon in alum. It took me a while to find the alum ( found it in the Asian store) so the winter melon lay untouched for a long time. Alum is supposed to make the texture less mushy when cooked and keep them white in color.
On Monday I had a chance to finally try out a recipe that called for soaking the sliced fruit in 5 c water and 1 t alum for 2-5 hours. I did this late in the evening but it was a long day at work and I had fallen asleep. The next morning, in my rush to get to work and I completely forgot about the winter melon slices. They were soaking for more than 24 hours by the time I remembered. After repeatedly washing the slices in cool water they were a still a little bitter. I went ahead and cooked them in syrup. The winter melon slices were odorless so I added orange peel to impart a pleasant, citrusy aroma. The syrup had turned amber in color and with the orange peel in it the winter melon slices turned yellowish and had a citrus flavor. I dried them overnight in my food dehydrator but they did not turn hard as I expected. They were absolutely delicious but they remained tacky even after 7 hours in the dehydrator. Not the candied winter melon I expected but even better. They were very sweet, had a pleasant texture and flavor so I decided to put them as topping over Greek yogurt. Perfection.