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Reflections on . . . Watermelon Pickles June 6, 2013

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

IMGP3643

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?

Comments»

1. SuziCate - June 6, 2013

My aunt made every kind of pickle under the sun and this was my very favorite…thanks for bringing back the memories, nice start to my morning! And yeah, way too much work for lazy me to attempt!

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

Thanks, Suzi. Every spring and summer, mom canned ~ filling her pantry with jewel toned jars of fruits of veggies to brighten gloomy winter days.

Judging from the recipes I reviewed, canning watermelon pickles is far more time-intensive than most pickled products. Some are super easy ~ put small cukes into jars uncooked and pour the flavorings over before sealing. Voila!

The best part about this experience . . . I will never again have the nagging feeling (“I should make watermelon pickles”) as I toss out the rinds. :mrgreen:

2. Jayde-Ashe - June 6, 2013

Holy crap. This sounds ridiculous!!! I have never seen nor heard of watermelon pickle before this post…although it sounds like nothing I would ever attempt I found it hilarious reading your post! I only hope you had enough wine to get you through 🙂

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

Thanks, Jayde! Glad you enjoyed my write up. I had FUN writing it, and may have salvaged the pickles by adding the sliced lemon to the mixture before the syrup cooled. Time will tell.

Unlike recipes in Julia Child’s cookbooks (that go on for page after page after page), this recipe in Fanny Farmer is only 1/2 a page in length. Fanny assumed cooks knew what they were doing ~ so she used shorthand to write her recipes. Tricky Rabbit! 😉

3. joannevalentinesimson - June 6, 2013

Sounds as tiresome as making kim-chi. But I do love watermelon pickles. Maybe if you had let them marinate awhile, the taste would have livened up.

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

Thanks, Joanne. After my first tentative taste, I ran through other recipes for Watermelon Pickles to see what I could add to the syrup to make them taste better . . . LEMON!

In Green Tomato Relish, lemon is THE key ingredient.

I sliced a lemon, paper-thin, and stirred it into the hot mixture. After sitting for 24 hours, the flavor had improved. I’m going to give them a week to “mellow” before tasting again.

4. Pix Under the Oaks - June 6, 2013

Nooooooooooooooo I couldn’t do it! I gave up around #22 with it stinking like fish. Nope. I have never had a watermelon pickle and have never seen them for sale or thought of them being pickled.

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

I don’t know who introduced me to watermelon pickles. Or where I tried them the first time. They’re “Southern” in origin.

The smell surprised me. Far more pungent than expected. 😯

5. Andra Watkins - June 6, 2013

I have never heard of this, Nancy. And I loved anything pickled. I will have to try it.

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

Wow! I am surprised. Now that you’ve heard of them, I wonder if they’ll start to cross your path with the frequency of Sam-I-Am proffering Green Eggs and Ham. 😉

I ran into Watermelon Pickles frequently when we lived in the Carolinas and Virginia. The Kings Arm Tavern in Williamsburg served them on the Relish Tray beside gherkins and pickled onions. I think.

6. spilledinkguy - June 6, 2013

It… really? This sort of thing… happens?
I… I had no idea this kind of pickling was possible.
🙂

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

Before refrigeration, canning improved survival odds. Our forerunners canned EVERYTHING ~ tomatoes, beans, corn, peppers, zucchini . . . even socks orphaned in the wash. :mrgreen:

I’ve made “preserves” before (Green Tomato Relish, Pushcart Onions, Pineapple Chutney), but only enough for immediate use. Since they went straight into the fridge (or our bellies), I didn’t have to can them.

spilledinkguy - June 6, 2013

A very good point, Nancy! My grandmother used to can all kinds of things… beets, tomatoes, apricots, etc… I don’t know why it never occurred to me that it could be done with watermelon as well! 🙂

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

It’s versatile. From Wikipedia:

Watermelon rinds, usually a light green or white color, are also edible and contain many hidden nutrients, but most people avoid eating them due to their unappealing flavor.

They are sometimes used as a vegetable. In China, they are stir-fried, stewed or more often pickled. When stir-fried, the skin and fruit is removed, and the rind is cooked with olive oil, garlic, chili peppers, scallions, sugar and rum.

Pickled watermelon rind is also commonly consumed in the Southern US.

Watermelon juice can be made into wine.

7. Jodi - June 6, 2013

I’ve only tried pickled watermelon once and never thought how complicated making them might be. Hope the lemony batch turns out a bit better!

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

Thanks, Jodi. While waiting for Brine Time to end (and Wine Time to commence), I flipped through all the Fanny Farmer Pickle and Relish recipes. Watermelon Pickles seems to involve the most preparation.

In contrast, Bread and Butter pickles have only 3 steps:
(1) wash and slice the cukes
(2) stir slices into the boiling syrup
(3) can or refrigerate

The BEST part of this “experiment” is that I will never again feel the slightest twinge of guilt for gutting a watermelon, keeping the sweet pink flesh, and tossing the rind. 😛

Jodi - June 6, 2013

That’s the best possible outcome I can imagine. No more guilt.

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

If the pickles claimed the title, “the best thing I ever tasted,” I would have felt compelled to make them again. Instead, I can buy an occasional jar to enjoy . . . without ever boiling another watermelon rind. 😎

Pix Under the Oaks - June 6, 2013

Did I hear Wine Time?.. 😀

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

You did! Once the rind got dumped into the salty brine . . . I had 6 hours of “leisure” before the next step. 😀

8. diannegray - June 6, 2013

My Mother-in-law makes pickles of just about every variety, but I’ve never heard of watermelon pickles. I must ask her if she has a recipe 😀

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

They’re a unique pickle . . . like spiced fruits. I’d love to know whether she’s heard of them.

9. Christine M Grote - June 6, 2013

Hilarious. I’ve never heard of watermelon pickles, have obviously never tried them, and now thanks to you will certainly never attempt to produce them.

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

Thanks, Christine! I had so much fun writing this . . . during Brine Time and Wine Time.

I doubt I’ll ever make watermelon pickles again . . . but I might try Bread and Butter Pickles later this year. I like them just as much and they sound TONS easier to make.

10. colonialist - June 6, 2013

I would not dream of even suggesting it after that epic performance. Our rinds shall go unpickled.

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

Ours too, henceforth. 😉

11. ericjbaker - June 6, 2013

I’ve never heard of such a thing. Try battering and frying them. People eat anything fried.

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

They do, don’t they?

I’ve tried a few fried foods ~ fried green tomatoes, French fries, fried green beans, fried zucchini, fried mozzarella sticks, egg rolls, fried pork rinds (a L~O~N~G time ago), and a fried chocolate bar (but only once, honest!). :mrgreen:

ericjbaker - June 6, 2013

fried pickles are pretty tasty, but holy crap they hold the heat! You can pick them up and they feel warm, then you bite them and find out it’s a nuclear furnace in there.

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

I’ve never had a fried pickle. I’ll add that to my Bucket List . . . at, let’s see, we’re up to . . . #1179. 😉

I remember fried zucchini being like that. The coating cool enough to handle, the dipping sauce standing at the ready, and the insides like an molten inferno! 😯

12. JOriginal Muse - June 6, 2013

I never made pickles of any kind, but I have used watermelon rind in my baking ~ just to make good on my claim that I don’t waste any edible part of a food. With a reliable blender, it makes a good substitute for zucchini in a bread or cake, AND it’s not time-consuming. Lately for me, the name of the food prep game is Resourceful, Quick & Healtheasy. Thanks for the reminder that there’s more to watermelon than just seeds & juicy flesh 😉

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

That’s a cool trick, Joanne. Zucchini makes bread moist, and watermelon rind is plenty moist.

Where did you get the idea? Did it come from your Original Muse?

JOriginal Muse - June 6, 2013

Sure did! When I was raising the older four, I was musing over how many pounds of “waste” there is after eating the fruit. Noticing the resemblance the rind had to zucchini, I thought there must be more to explore about the watemelon. “Hmmm,” mused I with myself, “they both grow on vines, the rind is green like zucchini, they both are moist…I’ll try it first, so I don’t poison the family…” Come to find out, pioneers used the watermelon rind for pickling; so, the concept of consuming it was not original, but the cake idea was inspired by jOriginal Musing 😉 Haven’t made it in a long while. Now, your post has inspired me to go get a watermelon for Mock Zucchini Bread & maybe try some Watermelon Wine 🙂

nrhatch - June 6, 2013

That is even COOLER!

BTW: Rhubarb leaves are POISONOUS. Don’t try to turn them into a stir fry. 😉

13. Three Well Beings - June 7, 2013

I loved reading about your kitchen adventure, Nancy! Look at all the organizing you got done just waiting for watermelon to boil and cool. Perhaps this is the secret to being more organized…take on some of the projects on my also lengthy bucket list! I love watermelon pickles, too. I think you’ve definitely discovered why they are so expensive. It couldn’t be for lack of rind, so it has to be their development! I hope you enjoy each and every one of them. Except for BFF, I wouldn’t share them with a soul. Too hard won! 🙂

nrhatch - June 7, 2013

Thanks, Debra. Cooking IS an adventure at times. The pickles taste better each time I taste one. That’s promising.

How long would our Bucket Lists be if we captured everything we’d like to try on it? We’d have to add “read Bucket List” to the Bucket List and make it a weekend project, like organizing socks. 😉

14. Booksphotographsandartwork - June 7, 2013

My mother used to make something like that. I don’t remember it being called pickles though.I thought she called candied rind. She is asleep right now or I would ask her. I don’t think that I liked it. And all that work! Not me.

Now my grandmother made the best bread and butter pickles, oh how I miss those.

nrhatch - June 7, 2013

I expect that watermelon pickles are called “candied rind” in places. Let me know what she says.

Bread and butter pickles . . . YUM!

15. viviankirkfield - June 7, 2013

Nancy…you are HILARIOUS! Thank you for an entertaining read!!!! Tears from my uncontrollable laughter were streaming down my face.
I’ve made many types of chutneys…and even tapped our maple trees when we lived in CT (that’s another hilarious story…ending with destroying a beautiful varnished wood kitchen set because of endless steam from an entire day of boiling sap into syrup).
But I have never made watermelon pickle..and now…thanks to you…I never will. 🙂 🙂 🙂

nrhatch - June 7, 2013

Thanks, Vivian. I am delighted that the post tickled your funny bone chakra. I had TONS of FUN writing it.

“Ack! Spit it Out! Spit it Out!” :mrgreen:

My dad and grandfather tapped sap to make syrup . . . but the boiling was done in the sugar shack where the steam would not destroy furniture. I wonder if they learned the hard way? 😉

I’ve made pineapple raisin chutney a few times. Delicious with curries. And much easier than watermelon pickles.

viviankirkfield - June 7, 2013

Yes, the maple sap SHOULD have been boiled outside. 🙂 And it was really difficult because I did not use a candy thermometer (why do I do things the hard way?)…so there were several batches that became maple candy instead of maple syrup in a blink of an eye. 🙂

nrhatch - June 7, 2013

We used to make “Sugar on Snow” . . . you pour hot maple syrup over depressions in clean cold snow (or shaved ice). When it cools, you pop it off the snow and into your mouth.

Too sweet for me these days, but I loved it as a kid. We’d each have our own bowl of snow to work with. But mom poured the HOT syrup for us.

16. sufilight - June 7, 2013

I did not know there were watermelon pickles! I chuckled about finding the big pot in the least accessible cabinet because this is basically what we do in our household. 😀

nrhatch - June 7, 2013

In the four years we’ve lived here, that’s only the 2nd time we’ve used the BIG pot. So it’s w~a~y in the back of the cabinet.

17. kateshrewsday - June 7, 2013

Do you know, I have never even heard of watermelon pickle. I’d have to buy some first to see if it tasted good enough to make your own!

nrhatch - June 7, 2013

Since my first “prickly” taste the pickles have improved in flavor for 3 reasons:

(1) I added sliced lemon which livened things up;
(2) I gave the rind time to stew in its own juices; and
(3) I reboiled the syrup with the KEY ingredient, whole allspice.

They taste quite tasty now. :mrgreen:

I did see a jar of pickled watermelon rind in the grocery store today ~ check the pickle section.

nrhatch - June 7, 2013
kateshrewsday - June 7, 2013

Great! Thanks!

nrhatch - June 7, 2013

I love the look . . . like candy. 😀

18. jannatwrites - June 8, 2013

I’ve never heard of watermelon pickles. After reading this I can say with certainty that I will never try to make my own! Thanks for the hilarious read – oh, I can relate to the cat in the middle of the floor. They reside where ever it is least convenient. I started setting out clothes to pack for vacation this morning and had to check the dryer. I came back and two out of three of our cats were spread out on my clothes! (Chances are, at least one will attempt to snooze in the suitcase if I leave it open.)

nrhatch - June 8, 2013

Thanks, Janna. Tigger is just the same when suitcases appear on the scene . . . he attempts to impede our packing progress by climbing aboard and curling up for a nap.

I’m going to forward an e-mail to you full of cartoons about pets and their proclivities.

19. Grannymar - June 10, 2013

Reblogged this on Grannymar and commented:
Food Monday ~ Watermelon Pickles

Normally I reproduce a recipe that I have tried and tested. Today will be a little different and a recipe that I will not be trying!

Never mind, it is well worth a read and will prove to you where my writing skills fall down.

I should not have to tell you this…. But I will.

PUT DOWN THAT COFFEE CUP FIRST!

Ready now? Grand so.

nrhatch - June 10, 2013

Thanks, Grannymar! You da bomb! 😀

Grannymar - June 10, 2013

Nancy, one of these days I might master the art of ‘Reblogging’! This was my first attempt.

nrhatch - June 10, 2013

You did fine ~ re-blogging with WP comes with built-in constraints. There isn’t much flexibility.

20. Barbara - June 10, 2013

Having never pickled anything ever, my overwhelming question is; why?

nrhatch - June 10, 2013

The best part about this experience . . . I will never again have the nagging feeling (“I should make watermelon pickles”) as I toss out the rinds. :mrgreen:

21. Booksphotographsandartwork - June 12, 2013

Oh I forgot to ask but it has to be the same thing.

nrhatch - June 12, 2013

I’m sure it is. The pickles I made are not nearly as good as the ones I fell in love with as a kid. So I’ll never have to make them again. I will toss the rinds with a clear conscience. :mrgreen:

22. jillhk - July 2, 2013

My grandma’s recipe calls for clove oil, try to find that. I use whole cloves, cinnamon and allspice. I also cut up the rind, peel it and cut off the red part each time we eat it. Throw it in a gallon ziplock bag in the freezer. When there are 2 gallons I make pickles. I plan it so they are in the salt and ice water bath overnight. They are a favorite in my family.

nrhatch - July 2, 2013

Thanks for the tips, Jill. Once I re-boiled the syrup with the allspice, the flavor improved, but they are still not as good as I remember them being. It may be that seedless watermelon rind doesn’t make the best pickles.

This week, I made a small batch of Bread and Butter Zucchini Pickles . . . so much easier and I like them much better.

23. Becky - August 14, 2014

I have that poetry book and it’s exactly what inspired me!
Here’s how I went about making them.
http://chickenwirepaperflowers.com/2010/08/30/how-to-make-watermelon-rind-pickles/

nrhatch - August 14, 2014

I’m happy that someone knows how to carry on the tradition! Best of luck launching your pickle business.


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