Watermelon Rind Pickles

I can’t believe it’s been this long. I’ve had so many requests for
recipes, and have been making things up right and left, what with the
holiday season. Starting in reverse order (newest requests first) and
will try to catch up, gradually working my way backwards.

I love watermelon, and I love watermelon pickles. But I loathe the
watermelon pickles found in the stores in the northern USA, where they
are sitting in corn syrup flavored with cinnamon oil and artificially
dyed with bright green or bright red. Fake, fake, fake. Bleagh. I
can’t bear them.

Watermelon pickles are traditional down South, where my mama’s folk
come from. The ones I make are pretty traditional. When I offer them
to folk up here the reaction is usually, “You pickled WHAT? Uhhhhhhh,
ummm, no thanks, really.” When Southern ex-pats now residing up North
get them, the reaction is more along the lines of, “Oh! Oh! Mmmmmm.
Where did you find these? I have to buy some, oh my God. How can I get
some?” I now have a small collection of people who love my watermelon
pickles, and who are on my short list of those who receive some as
holiday gifts. I do carefully protect my personal supply, tho. It just
isn’t the same to have a ham sandwich without watermelon pickles.
Mmmmmm.

OK, so making them. FYI, this usually takes me a week, but can be done
in 4 days. I don’t give these to everyone who wants them. They are a
lot of work.

INGREDIENTS

rind of one large watermelon
water
salt
7 cups sugar
3 cups apple cider vinegar
8 sticks cinnamon
2 tablespoons cloves
5 whole allspice (optional star anise instead)

WHAT TO DO

I like to cut the watermelon flesh off the rind leaving just a bit of
pink. I like the way the pickles shift colors when done, and have a
bit of a sunrise glow to them. Just call me a romantic. Here is how I
start.

Now, I am a single mom with a fulltime job, and often just, well,
tired. So sometimes I don’t get all the steps done in one day. The
next part is one of those that sometimes take me a while. You have to
cut off the hard bitter outer green from the rest of the rind. Here is
a picture of that part.

I usually cut the chunks of rind into one inch strips first, then cut
the green off the strips, and then cut the strips into chunks about
roughly an inch or a bit less, most of which will be shaped
approximately like a cube.

What usually happens for me is that either we haven’t finished eating
all the watermelon, or my hands get sore trying to cut the green off.
Either way, I will finish part of the watermelon and need to wait
until the next day for me to get the rest done. Whatever chopping is
finished goes in a lined pot (enamel or other non-metal interior
surface) with a lid, lightly salted, to wait in the refrigerator.
Please note, it can’t wait more than a day or it will mold. Then you
have to start over with a fresh watermelon.

The next step is to parblanch the rind cubes. In a large pot, cover
the white rind cubes with water until they are covered to the depth of
one inch. Water should be salted the same as you would to cook pasta
or rice. Bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to a low simmer.
Simmer for approximately 3 minutes. Test often with a fork. You want
the fork to be able to penetrate a cube with some resistance. You
don’t want to have to really force it, nor do you want it to be soft
and easily penetrated. If the former, the pickles will be unpleasantly
crunchy, if the latter they will be mushy and may dissolve.

Drain the parblanched rind chunks. While they are draining, add the
sugar, vinegar, and spices to the pot and bring to a boil. Add the
rind cubes to the vinegar syrup, return to a boil. put lid on and
immediately remove from heat. Let stand overnight. If I am swamped or
exhausted, I can leave it overnight another day.

Drain again. I used to do this the hard way — get a giant bowl, put
two strainers in it, pour the syrup into the pyramid of strainers,
pray they catch all the cubes and strain all the syrup without
spilling. Now I have a slower but simpler and more foolproof method. I
have a large slotted spoon. I use it to grab spoonfuls of the cubes,
let the syrup drain off, and then put the cubes in a strainer in a
large bowl. This will catch the syrup that drips from the cubes.

You do this for a long time, and then the pot is full of syrup. Bring
the syrup to a boil again. Add the cubes back in, return to boil,
immediately put the lid on and remove from heat. Let it sit overnight
for one day or two.

Repeat this process (drain, reboil, cover, sit overnight) twice more.
See how this can take a week?

The last time, pack the cubes into canning jars. Bring the syrup to a
boil, cover the cubes in jars, and I mean COVERED. Can & seal them
however you usually do that. How I do it is this.

Have the clean canning jars ready, filled with very hot tap water. The
jars should be no smaller than 8-ounces, and no larger than a quart.
My preferred jar size is a pint. The last time I bring the syrup to a
boil, I leave the cubes in the syrup, and ladle the cubes and boiling
syrup into the jars as fast as I can. As each jar is filled, put the
flat sealing lid and ring on, then immediately turn upside down on the
counter. As soon as the last jar is filled and sealed and flipped, set
a timer for five minutes. At the three minute mark, with ovenmitts,
slowly turn over the jars that were filled first. If you turn over
half the jars before the five minute mark, stop and wait. When the
timer goes off, finish turning the rest of the jars.

Eh voilà!

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About pfanderson

Single mom, emerging technologies librarian, e-health, EBHC, informatics, search engines, social media, MODERATE, ♫, quilts/yarn/origami, food, iaido. SL: Perplexity Peccable
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One Response to Watermelon Rind Pickles

  1. Jenn Forager says:

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