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Reflections on . . . Watermelon Pickles June 6, 2013

Posted by nrhatch in Food & Drink, Home & Garden, Humor.
63 comments

Wikipedia ~ Watermelon (in Public Domain)

I love the anthology, Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle.  

And I adore watermelon pickles.

I never understood why mom pickled zucchini, green beans, cucumbers, and peppers, but not watermelon rind.

Each summer, she canned dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, tomato sauce, beets, strawberry jam, raspberry jam, peach jam, peach chutney, rhubarb ginger jam, marmalade, lemon curd . . .

But, no matter how many times I pestered her, no watermelon pickles.

I’ve often wondered why watermelon pickles are both hard to find (relegated to small shelves in backwoods country stores) and expensive (triple the price of most pickled products).

After all, watermelon pickles are made from the inexpensive by-product of picnics and seed spitting contests.  If you don’t turn the rind into pickles, it ends up in the compost pile or the trash.

Every time I toss out the rinds, I think, “I should make watermelon pickles.”

This year, I added “make watermelon pickles” to my bucket list . . . at spot #1137.

What?  Stop judging me!

Item #1137 is no longer on the list because I made watermelon pickles!  Yay!

Now I know (a) why mom never made them no matter how much I pestered her, (b) why they are hard to find, and (c) why they are expensive.

After 25 hours of prep work, I ended up with one quart of pickles.  One!  

OK . . . three pints.  Tops.

Granted, most of that time was brine time (waiting for the salt to do its thing), not hands on slicing and dicing.  Even so, it’s easier to make umpteen quarts of bread and butter pickles, and faster to pickle a peck of peppers, than to make a single quart of watermelon pickles.

Here’s why:

Step 1 ~ Separate the pink flesh from the rind.  (I didn’t count this time because I do it every time I buy a watermelon.)

Step 2 ~ Cut the rind into manageable pieces.

Step 3 ~ Get out your big pot.  Put the rind into it.  Oops!  You’ll need a bigger pot than that!

Step 4 ~ Reach into the dark recesses of your least accessible cabinet to locate THE BIG POT.

Step 5 ~ Wash the BIG pot because it hasn’t been used in four years.

Step 6 ~ Put the rind into the BIG pot.  Cover with water.  Bring to a rolling boil for five minutes.

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Step 7 ~ While waiting for the BIG pot to boil, read Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

Step 8 ~ Drain and cool the rind.  Easy enough, right?  Just carry the BIG pot of boiling water over to the sink and dump it into a colander.  Ha!  Try doing that with the-cat-who-must-not-be-named sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor between the stove and the sink.

Step 9 ~ Share a laugh with your BFF:  Why did the cat sit in the middle of the kitchen?  Answer: To get in the way.

Step 10 ~ Dump the rind into the colander until the colander spills over into the sink.  Put the BIG pot down on the BIG pot holder.  Find a second colander for the rest of the rind.

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Step 11 ~ Rinse the rind to cool it down.  Rinse it again.  Rinse it again.  Swap out colanders and rinse it again.

Step 12 ~ A watched rind never cools.  Organize your sock drawer by color, height, and remaining elasticity.  Stop kidding yourself that unmatched pairs are going to return some day.  They are gone.  Get over it!

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Step 13 ~ Cut the edible inner rind away from the inedible outer rind, until you have 2 quarts of bite-sized pickling pieces.

Step 14 ~ Keep cutting.  You’ve got 3 cups and you need a solid 8 cups.  Keep going.  You’re getting there.  Watch your fingers!  Great!  5 cups.  Do I hear 6? Do I hear 6?  Going once . . . going twice . . . done!  At 6 cups.

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Step 15 ~ Toss the outer rind into the trash.  Wonder why it stinks. Take out the trash.

Step 16 ~ Wash the colanders, knives, plates, tongs, counter, and the BIG pot.

Step 17 ~ Put the rind into a non-reactive bowl.  Adjust the recipe since you only have 6 cups of usable rind, not 8 cups as called for in the recipe.

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Step 18 ~ Shake the salt container.  Almost empty.   Start pouring.  Smack the side of the container to dislodge stray grains.  Great . . . 1/4 cup salt.  You’re halfway there.

Step 19 ~ Cut the top off the container to get the last few grains of salt.  Uncap the salt shaker.  Pour more.  Huzzah!  1/2 cup!

Step 20 ~ Stir salt into 6 cups of water.  Pour brine over the waiting rind.

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Step 21 ~ Wait 6 hours.  “We will rinse no brine before it’s time!”

Step 22 ~ Sniff the air.  Yuck!  Boiled watermelon smells like rotting fish.  Put a lid on “eau de brining rind.”

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Step 23 ~ Google “watermelon pickle” to discover who thought that pickling watermelon rind would be a good idea.  “Anonymous.”  Of course.  Someone with more time than sense.

Step 24 ~ Check the timer.  Three hours of brine time to go.  What to do?  What to do?  Hmm . . . what rhymes with brine time?  Of course . . . Wine Time!

Step 25 ~ At last!  Drain and rinse the brined rind.  Repeat.  Keep rinsing until all trace of salt is gone.  Wonder if you could have skipped the last 7 steps.

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Step 26 ~ Put rind into a 2-quart saucepan, cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer until fork tender.  Drain.  Rinse.

Step 27 ~ Put 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar, 3/4 cup water, and 1 1/2 cups sugar into a 3-quart saucepan.  Bring to boil.

Step 28 ~ Get out cloves, cinnamon, and allspice to add to syrup.  Realize the recipe calls for whole cloves, stick cinnamon, and whole allspice, tied in cheesecloth.  Toss in ground cloves and cinnamon.  Look for allspice.  Shrug when you can’t find it.

Step 29 ~ Simmer until the sugar dissolves.  Add the rind.  (Finally!)  Simmer until rind is translucent, adding more water if necessary.  Wait!  Necessary for what?

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Step 30 ~ Remove the spice bundle.  Ha!  Being able to skip this step saved me a bundle of time!  

Step 31 ~ Pack in hot sterilized jars and cover with hot molten syrup, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Wipe the rims.  Seal the jars.

Step 32 ~ Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Step 33 ~ Let the jars cool.  Check seals.  If not sealed, reprocess.  Let the jars cool.  Check the seals . . .

Give up.  Put unsealed jars in the fridge.

Step 34 ~ Try to open a jar to taste the fruits of your labor.  Stuck.  Tap it on the counter to release the seal.  Tap it again.  Again.  Shazam!  We’re in!

Sonic-Youth-eat-a-watermelonStep 35 ~ Taste the pickles.

ACK!  
Spit it out!  Spit it out!  

Step 36 ~ Throw recipe away.  Cross #1137 off Bucket List.

Step 37 ~ Write mom, apologizing for being a pest.

Aah . . . that’s better!

So, can you can better than I can can?
I bet you can can better.

Have you ever pickled watermelon rind?  Did you do it more than once?  What’s your secret?  Infinite time?  Or infinite patience?