The perfect French Summer starter: Melon au Porto (Recipe)

The perfect French summer appetizer, Melon au Porto is a classic. Easy to prepare and that requires no cooking, and with a good dose of alcohol to boot! We look at how to serve it, recipe substitutes, and much more.
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This Recipe uses:

  • Melon
  • Porto
  • (Optional) Charcuterie ham

If you are looking for the perfect summertime appetizer, you have come to the right place. I’m not sure if Melon au Porto comes from the South of France, or if I just happen to think that because I usually have it with our relatives in the South.

Everyone will agree though, it is a classic summer French starter. And during a heatwave, it is even better. The perfect appetizer for that apéro, that is easy to prepare and that requires no cooking. And with a good dose of port wine to boot!

The recipe involves a fresh orange cantelope melon cut in half, with sweet port wine added into the hollowed out middle. It is not a dessert, but rather usually served as a starter. It is eaten with a spoon that is used to hollow out the ripened sweet melon that usually comes out quite easily.

Perhaps the most complicated part of this recipe is figuring out how to cut the melon. While the zig-zag pattern above may seem complicated, it actually isn’t. A sharp knife will slip easily into the melon and frankly, no one is going to notice if the zig-zags are slightly uneven. The first time I tried it, I surprised myself by how easy it was.

Picking Melons in Season

Part of the charm comes from picking the melon itself. Melons are in season in France between June-early Sept, so a lovely morning out at the marché (farmers’ market) to pick up the perfect melon for your lunch just adds that extra touch of gastronomie du terroir. (Or just makes you feel better about your hoity-toity self!)

Melons cut in half

Unlike farmers’ markets in North America, in France you do not pick your own produce. Generally, you tell the farmer/merchant:

  • when and how you are going to eat the item,
  • what other ingredients you are going to use,
  • who you’re going to be serving. (i.e; Grandma, small children, business associates, etc.)

The farmer will then pick the fruit or vegetable that will achieve maximum ripeness and taste on D-Day (or in French “Jour J“).

☞ READ MORE: ABC of French Cuisine (the Food Dictionary)

melons with a bottle of porto - ingredients

Recipe substitutes

If you can’t find porto, you could substitute it for cognac or brandy. You could also entirely scoop out the melon as little balls, fill the whole thing with brandy and drench the melon balls in that. That might be quite a bit of alcohol though, so forewarned!

I suggest adding a few slices of jambon cru charcuterie with it. It adds a touch of salt to counterbalance the sweetness of the melon, making it a perfect pairing.

If you don’t eat pork, turkey or chicken slices would work quite well too. You can also add a slight touch of pepper to give the meat slices an extra kick.

☞ READ MORE: Tomato tartare: French starter summer recipe

Frequently asked questions

What main dish to serve with it?

cutlery

Since this is a light summer dish, you may not want to cook at all and serve it with a full charcuterie board or cheese platter. Another easy option would be savory crêpes.

What drinks to serve with it?

two wine glasses

A small glass of kir or porto will be lovely with melon au porto, and not compete with the alcohol. You can read more about French apéritifs here.

melon au porto

Melon au Porto Recipe

Yield: 2
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Originating in France, Melon au Porto is a starter that is usually served on a hot summer day for a long and lazy lunch.

Ingredients

  • Melon
  • Porto
  • (Optional) Charcuterie

Instructions

  1. Pick a ripe melon at the market.
  2. Cut aforementioned melon in half. You can cut it in a jagged pattern (as above) if you wish, but a simple half is just as nice.
  3. Scoop out the seeds of the melon.
  4. Buy a bottle of Porto at your local grocery store.
  5. Add Porto into each half of the melon.
  6. Refrigerate for a couple of hours so that the melon marinates.
  7. (Optional) Sip some porto while waiting.
  8. (Optional) Add pieces of ham and charcuterie to the plate and serve.
  9. Bon appétit!

Notes

  • If you can't find Porto, substitute Porto for Cognac or Brandy.
  • If you don't eat pork, substitute charcuterie for turkey or chicken slices.
  • Add pepper to the meat slices to give it an extra kick.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 51Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 121mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 7gProtein: 2g
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So wherever you are, I hope you are keeping cool. Enjoy your Melon au Porto and let me know if you found any other variations to taste! If you enjoyed that article, you may enjoy reading about more classic French appetizers and provençale recipes that are easy to prepare.

P.S. Do not serve to small children. Obviously, you do not want to go to jail. A bientôt!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Sue

    How does one actually serve and eat the melon?

    1. Nassie

      Hi Sue, I usually just serve on a plate with a tablespoon, and you can scrape at the melon with the spoon.

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