Used in braises, tea, soups and just about any dish where an astringent bitterness is desired, bitter melon, or karela, has a strong presence in Asian cuisine. In American cuisine, not so much -- it's borderline acrid and doesn't agree with most palates unless they've been conditioned for an ingredient of such strength. But flavor isn't the only area bitter melons stand out. With their bumpy flesh and lime green color, karela looks more like a warty cucumber than a typical melon.
Unless your palate is accustomed to bitter melon juice, take it slow and easy at first, as in a sip at a time. Temper the bitterness with sugar, if desired, and consider variations and the addition of complementary fruits and vegetables to create more palatable, complex flavors.
Peel the karelas and cut off the tips of each end. Slice them in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds using a spoon.
Chop the karelas roughly into 1/2-inch pieces. Blanch the pieces for 2 minutes to reduce bitterness and make juicing easier.
Transfer the karela to a food processor while slightly warm. Process the karela on high until pureed, between 1 and 2 minutes.
Line a fine-mesh strainer with three layers of cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Strain the juice through the cheesecloth and discard or compost the solids left behind.
Taste the juice and adjust the consistency with water, if desired. Store fresh karela juice in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
Karela juice plays well with several other varieties of fruit and vegetables.
- Juice with guava and pineapple for a tropical twist.
- Add karela juice to taste to any fruit smoothie for a complementary bitterness.
- The addition of lime juice and ginger minimizes the harshness of karela without negating its bittern qualities.