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Agua Fresca


It's hot enough here in East Texas to fry an egg on the blacktop.  However, I'm not complaining because with the heat wave comes the best fruit of the year.  Texas farmers have the lockdown on growing watermelons, cantelope, peaches, and the juiciest berries.  I keep the fridge stocked. 

One of my earliest childhood memories is of my grandfather coming in hot off the tractor and splitting open a watermelon that had been chilling in the "ice box" all day.  "Sweet stuff, Jilly," he'd say as he handed me a whopping slab.  Today, when my husband and son come in from exercising or I stumble in from a scorching afternoon walk, we enjoy the same treat.  A cold slice of watermelon.  A bowl of chilled berries.  A thick, creamy cantelope slice that refreshes like a Dreamsicle pop.

Another great thing about Texas and the heat and the fruit is the rising popularity of the Mexican cooler "Agua Fresca."  Our state has a large immigrant population, especially from the Mexican state of Puebla.  These folks have made some terrific culinary contributions to the local fare.  In my novel THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY, I tried to showcase this in part through the character of Maribel -- a confident and proud daughter of Mexican immigrants who has a gift and a passion for cooking.  Much like Maribel, I've been known to create a few signature dishes of my own.  One of my faves is the "Agua Fresca" based on the traditional Mexican chilled drink and the sweet summer melons grown around home.  (recipe below)

So this 4th of July, here's a little taste of East Texas!  Enjoy!

AGUA FRESCA
4-5 cups cubed watermelon or cantelope
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
crushed ice

Blend the melon and sugar.  Add water and blend again.  Mixture should be thick.   If desired, strain to remove pulp.  Add crushed ice and serve in anything from a mason jar to a stemmed champagne glass. 
Garnish with a seasonal berry.  Spike it if you like it. :)