Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pickled Watermelon Rinds : A Story and a Recipe

The story.  It's not really earth shattering.  But for me, is still makes me smile.  So when I first moved to DC a gazillion years ago, my Bestie Little moved there too.  I like to do things in tandem in life.  We were both nannies and still entertain crowds with our wild stories.  Ha.  But over Labor Day weekend, we decided to take a little road trip.  Just to get away for a few days.  Two girls and two dogs.  Yes, because we both had dogs.  Actually, the family I worked for is the reason I have Sadie.  They wanted a dog and so did I.  But they didn't want to have the responsibility of caring for the dog.  So the mom pushed for me to get one instead.  That August is when my fur baby came into my world. 

But that's sort of off topic.  Anyway, Little and I went on a road trip to Pennsylvania.  Why?  Because she is from the mountains of GA and had never been to PA.  She wanted to cross another state off her list.  So off we went to a cute little Bed & Breakfast for the weekend.  Because that's how we roll.  Just out of college and off to a B&B.  I'm telling you, Little and I have forever been old souls.  The dogs loved it.  We loved it.  We took little day getaways to see fun sights.  Ate great food.  And at one little out door cafe that allowed us to have the dogs sit at our feet, they offered some pickles as a little nibble before dinner.  Including watermelon rind. 

Now let me preface this by saying that I think watermelon and cucumbers are garden mistakes.  So gross.  I can't even get myself to taste them because the smell just completely overpowers me with ickiness. 

But not one to turn down trying new foods, I popped one in my mouth.  Oh how fun!  It was a little like a square sweet pickle.  Tangy and sweet and spicy and crunchy and just so fun.  Little said they were a southern food but to date, I have only ever seen them up north.  So I actually have a feeling that they are more of a Dutch/Amish thing.  That trickled down south.  Regardless of what community claims them, they are really good!  And I have wanted to try making them ever since that first bite almost exactly nine years ago.

But I was intimidated.  Since I don't like watermelon, I've never before purchased one.  They looked heavy and hard to maneuver.  (And I was right...they are.)  It looked impossible to peel away the green outer part to reveal the white rind part.  (It's not.  Just takes time and a good peeler.  Which incidentally, came in the form of a Christmas gift from Little a few years ago.  Full circle moment, my friends.)  And the only other time I made a pickled anything was a few years ago when I made dill pickled green beans.  Which were a total flop.  I followed that recipe to a T and they just tasted like vinegar. 

But today is a Pickle Party.  I love a good party, even if I will never meet the other guests.  So I took this on as a personal mission to make me some jars of pickled watermelon rind, y'all! 

The verdict...a total success!  With a bonus drink recipe at the end too. 

So this one is a tip of my hat to you, sweet Little! I miss you!

Without further ado, the recipe everyone must be just dying to try (I will flip if even one person tries this recipe.)...

Pickled Watermelon Rind

* 3 quarts watermelon rind
* 3/4 cup salt
* 3 quarts water
* 2 trays ice cubes
* 6 cups sugar
* 3 cups 5% white vinegar
* 3 cups water
* 1 tablespoon whole cloves
* 6 cinnamon sticks broken in half
* juice of 1 lemon
* jar grabber
* jar funnel
* large pot
* large spoons

* Gently wash your watermelon with cold water and NO SOAP.

* Make the brine: combine 3/4 cup salt and 3 quarts water.  Mix well.

* Prep your melon.  Trim away all of the pink flesh.  Give this to a friend or relative who isn't grossed out by the smell of watermelon.  Then use a vegetable peeler to remove all of the green outer skin.  You just want the white rind part.  Cut into 1 inch cubes. 

* Place the cubed rind in a container large enough to hold it plus the brine solution.  I needed to use three containers to fit it all in my fridge.  Then place the ice cubes on top.  Place in the fridge for at least four hours.  Overnight is best. 

* Drain and rinse the rind under cold running water. 

* Bring pot of water to a boil and add the drained rind.  Boil for about 10 minutes- just until fork tender.  Don't over cook.

* Place cloves in a piece of cheesecloth and tie tight.  Break cinnamon sticks into pieces.  Place in a large pot along with sugar, vinegar and 3 cups water.  Bring to a boil.  Boil for five minutes. 

* Carefully add the now boiled until fork tender rind into the sugar/spice pot.  Add lemon juice.  Bring to a hard boil, then back the heat down to allow the pot to simmer until the rind is more translucent and the liquid is a bit thicker.  About 40 minutes.

* Sterilize your jars and new lids.  Have your tools and rings ready.  Get your canner/water bath ready.

* Fill jars with rind and liquid, leaving a quarter inch head space.  Wipe rims clean with a clean, damp cloth if necessary.  Add sterilized lid and ring.  Bring to a boil for 10 minutes. (Or check the time in your area if you live in particularly high altitude.  Even though I live in the North Pole, I am only a few blocks from the Hudson and therefore only about ten feet above sea level.)  Rest on a towel- don't touch them- they're hot and need to pop on their own. 

* Impress your friends and family with your fun pickling skills!

OK a few notes...

+ Do not change the sugar/acid content.  I know you gasped when you saw the sugar content.  Yes well, just deal with it.  If you change the sugar or vinegar or lemon amounts, you are changing the entire chemistry.  Don't do that.  Keep your food safe, my peaches.  Trust me, this is super duper important.

+ I once read a recipe that I now need to try.  Instead of wrapping a piece of bacon around a date or fig, wrap it around a pickled watermelon rind piece.  Same idea of salty and sweet together.  Bake until bacon is cooked.  Sounds amazing if you ask me!

+ This is NOT a quick recipe.  It takes time to allow the rind to brine overnight.  It takes time to get all of the components together.  Heck, it takes a lot of time just to cut up your melon.  My point, allow yourself time.  Don't start this project thinking it will be done in an hour.  Not the case here.  It's a little bit of a labor of love.  But totally worth it, I promise!

+ And finally, I actually had a good bit of the syrup liquid left over.  Never one to throw things away, I saved it in a plastic container.  And added a few tablespoons to a glass with seltzer water, ice and a splash of rum (or vodka would be good too).  OMG sooo good!!  I actually first tried it sans the alcohol and that was super refreshing too so don't think I'm trying to push you to drinky drink.  Either way, it was so yummy and a great way to use up something you just spent a lot of time making.

I have adjusted the recipe.  I originally wrote down 9 cups of sugar.  But have since made the recipe again with 6 cups.  It still tastes great but has a lot less sugar.  So taste it at 6 cups.  I mean, that's still a wicked ton of sugar.  If you like it sweeter, add up to 3 more cups.  But for me, 6 was plenty. 


ty said...

totally trying this.

Legal Preppy said...

wow i love your recipe. i actually just attempted picked watermelon rinds this morning, they're sitting in their brine solution until tomorrow. hope mine come as well as yours did! xo


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