First the cantaloupe is peeled and seeded, then cured in salt and ash from his smoker for about a day-and-a-half. The salt kick-starts lacto-fermentation in the fruit, creating lactic acid -- the same substance muscles exert when they're overworked. "We're using fermentation to replicate the way a muscle exercises and develops flavor," Horowitz says. "That mouth-watering quality a steak has, a lot of it comes from the lactic acid in the meat." The ash plays an important part, too: its alkalinity contributes a mineral quality to the fruit, a flavor reminiscent of grass-fed, dry-aged beef.
The salt also begins to expel water from the cantaloupe, while the ash binds with pectins to enhance the texture of the fruit's "skin" and "muscle." From there, the cantaloupes are hot-smoked for seven hours ("We use smoke to cheat a flavor that's commonly associated with meat," says Horowitz), then baked for three more to concentrate and create new flavors; they are then dehydrated to drive off additional moisture.