Thursday, August 16, 2012

Watermelon Rind Pickles – August 16, 2012

We did not grow watermelon this year, but we have bought a couple at the Farmer’s Market and I saved the seeds from a very nice small and sweet one to grow next year.  I just washed the seeds and let soak a little while in a glass and then spread on a plate to dry.  I store all my seeds in envelopes in the fridge.

If the watermelon is sweet, I like to eat it as it is or with a little salt.  This year we even took some cut in quartered slices with popsicle sticks in the rinds to a party.  I have seen this in at least three magazines this year, so I thought we should give it a try.  Our two year old friend Eva thought they were wonderful.

Believe it or not, you can also freeze watermelon.  I think this works best if you plan to use it blended in drinks.  To do so, only use firm-fleshed, well-colored, ripe melons that are free from blemishes.  Cut in half, remove seeds and rind. Cut melons into slices, cubes or balls as desired.  Spread melon pieces in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze them until firm.  Once firm, transfer to containers or plastic freezer bags and freeze eight to 12 months.  Melon can also be frozen in a juice pack.  Pack fruit in suitable containers as above and pour pineapple juice, orange juice or ginger ale to cover fruit before freezing.

If we have guests, I love to make watermelon salad.  It is always good, but doesn’t do well as a left over, hence the need for sharing.  Here is my favorite recipe, but you can riff on this in lots of ways adding your favorite dressing, tossing in capers and olives or changing up the cheese:

Watermelon Salad

1 7-8 lb. seedless watermelon, chilled
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 limes, juiced
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup fresh chopped mint leaves
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese

Cut watermelon flesh into 1 inch cubes.  Mix oil, limes, salt, pepper and mint to make dressing.  Mix together all ingredients about an hour before serving and chill.  Serve cold.

And, if you really don’t want to waste any of your watermelon, I recommend making watermelon rind pickles.  These are the most beautiful pickles on our shelf.  They are a sweet pickle especially good with bar-b-que or pork.

Watermelon Rind Pickles

2 quarts watermelon rind (equal to one medium-sized melon)
3/4 cup salt
3 quarts water
5 cups sugar
3 cups white vinegar
3 cups water
1 T whole cloves
6 cinnamon sticks
1 T Allspice
1 lemon, thinly sliced, no seeds

You will need a sharp knife to trim the pink flesh and the green outer skin from the rind.  Leave a little touch of the pink flesh because it makes pretty pickles with the pink stripe. Cut into small strips, about 1/2'” x 4" (you can also cut in cubes, but I like the look of the long pickles in the jars.  Cover with brine made by combining 3 quarts water and 3/4 cup salt. Refrigerate for an hour.  Some people leave these overnight, but I think it makes them too salty.  You could rinse and let sit in water overnight.

Drain and rinse watermelon. Cover water and bring to a boil; about another 10 minutes. (Overcooking will cause the rinds to become rubbery.) Drain.

Combine sugar, vinegar, water and spices. Boil 5 minutes and then pour over watermelon.  Add lemon slices and refrigerate until cool or overnight.

Heat watermelon in syrup to boiling; reduce heat to medium-high and for 5 more minutes.  Pack the hot watermelon pickles lengthwise into clean, hot pint jars.  Cover with boiling syrup, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  I also like to put a star anise in each jar for a really nice look. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; apply two-piece metal lids.  Seal for at least 15 minutes in boiling water.  Check seals.

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