Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Watermelon Rind Pickles

Watermelon rind pickles are a multi-step process. First, the trimmed rind of a watermelon is cut into slices and soaked overnight in a salt water brine, then boiled to tenderize, and later boiled in a spiced, vinegar and sugar mixture and left to stand overnight, before preparing for water bath canning.

Watermelon Rind Pickles

I don't know what it is about the taste of sweet down south. Maybe sweet things just help to take our minds off of the heat, who knows. We sure like our desserts in The Deep South, no doubt about that. People will talk all day about not wanting to cook but then their eyes will light up at the mention of some baked goods! Some Southerners even like their mayonnaise sweet, sauces sweet, cornbread sweet, and we sure like our watermelon rind pickles sweet!

Many southerners have very fond memories of sittin' on the back porch, or more likely a picnic table in the middle of the yard - the better to hose us down - parked in front of big slices of sticky, sweet watermelon, holding a knife in one hand to cut the juicy pulp off the rind, and very often a salt shaker in the other, and havin' seed spittin' contests with or at our siblings. Yes we do that, and while I know that newly bred seedless watermelon is all the rage these days, I truly still like a good ole seeded watermelon. The only down side is their size and having the place to store it in the fridge, so the smaller seedless ones have become quite popular.

Some of us also remember our Mamas or a Grandmas taking up those leftover watermelon rinds and creating batches of pickles out of them. I'm not so sure it's a widely held practice anymore and that's kinda sad really. Yes, it's true ... it's a little bit of work for what the output is, but imagine the delight in your child's eye when you take the rind of a watermelon that is often just thrown out in the trash, and you turn it into these delectable, super sweet pickles that can be used on sandwiches, in salads, or just eaten straight out of the Mason jar! And imagine if you will, years from now, that child now an adult, reminiscing of those fond memories of his or her Mama makin' pickles out of watermelon.

Well, we had plenty of watermelon growing up - that's for sure - but I don't remember my Mama or my Grandma making one single batch of pickles from that rind, so I did not have the privilege of growin' up with these little delectable sweet things. Neither of them did any canning that I recall either. I know... such deprivation! I decided that I was gonna finally get around to making some myself, for my own little lonesome, since The Cajun has no similar appreciation as me for all things pickled, sweet or otherwise.

I used a medium sized one that my Mother-in-Law had given to us and it had a fairly thin rind on it. A regular watermelon has a thicker rind so if you use that type, you'll have thicker pickles. Admittedly, this is a process that takes time and a goodly bit of work, which is probably why it has fallen out of grace, but still, I did want to give it a whirl. They're not quite what you expect from a sweet cucumber pickle though I would go so far as to say that they are somewhat similar to a bread butter pickle - those delectable sweet things that I absolutely adore! I think it was worth the effort, but not likely something I'll do every single summer. Give 'em a try sometime and see what you think. What pulp you don't manage to consumer, freeze some for some delightful frozen watermelon margaritas or maybe use some for a watermelon strawberry granita.


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Recipe: Watermelon Rind Pickles

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 20 min |Inactive time: 16 hours | Yield: About 4 pints

Ingredients
  • 1 large watermelon
  • 3 quarts of water
  • 3/4 cup of table salt
  • 2 quarts of ice cubes
  • Fresh water, just to cover rinds
  • Square of cheesecloth and piece of string
  • 1 tablespoon of whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon of whole allspice
  • 3 cups of fresh water
  • 3 cups of white vinegar
  • 9 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1 lemon, sliced thin
Instructions

Peel the watermelon, remove and reserve pulp for another use. Cut the rind into 1-inch sized cubes until you have about 12 cups of cubes. In a large pot, stir the water and salt together until salt is dissolved. Add the rind to the salt mixture and top with the ice; cover and let stand overnight, or for about 8 hours.

Drain, rinse the pot and rinse the rinds well, returning them to the pot. Add enough water to just cover the rinds, bring to a boil and boil until rinds are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Make a packet with the cloves and allspice by placing them into a square of cheesecloth and tying it with a string. In that same pot you've been using, add 3 cups of fresh water, and stir in the vinegar and sugar. Place the spice packet into the water and bring mixture to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, turn off heat, and add the rind to the sugar mixture. Stir in the slices of lemon, cover and let stand for at least 8 hours.

Bring the rind mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, prepare the lids & jars and keep them warm. Pack the mixture into the hot jars, to 1/2 inch from the top. Remove any air bubbles and wipe off the jar rim with a clean dishcloth dipped into the hot water. Cover with the lids and tighten a band on the jar. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Makes about 4 pint jars, depending on the size of your rinds.

Source: http://www.deepsouthdish.com

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©Deep South Dish
Adapted from a Southern Living Cookbook
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Posted by on June 9, 2009
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