(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on August 29, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that this author has passed away and will not be able to respond to your questions or ocmments.)
Mother was creating watermelon pickles again. My family was never rich, but with all of the fresh fruits and veggies from our garden and orchard, at times we ate like millionaires. Sometimes, mother made the most fabulous things from these fruits. Our cupboards were stocked with jar after jar of many varieties of jams. Mom loved to bake pumpkin cookies and oatmeal cookies when she had the energy. Occasionally, dad and mom would bring home a huge watermelon and we would feast for days on the scrumptious fruit. Then, the Cooking of the Rinds would begin.This was usually a family event.
It seemed like it took us hours to shave the green off the white. But, was the work worth it? Oh yeah; you betcha! Not only did we enjoy the pickles but we also had fun sharing the Watermelon Pickles with surprised friends. We were usually rewarded with shocked faces as they said, "WATERMELON RIND PICKLES!!!".
The syrup is wonderfully spicy and the pickles are delicious but beware: they are in a thick, sweeter than sweet syrup. It bears repeating: Mom's recipe is sweet like thick honey but spicy with cloves and cinnamon. The combination of the taste and the translucent beauty makes the Watermelon Pickles a family tradition.
Mother is older now and so are her daughters. I'm not sure if any of us girls have braved the work of the Cooking of the Rinds. However, about a month ago, mom called me.
"Guess what I made...", she said with a bit of joy and teasing in her voice.
I guessed a few of her specialties: "Pumpkin Cookies?" "Mincemeat?" "Rice Pudding with Raisins?" "Scalloped Potatoes?". My ideas were slowly running out.
Mom gave me a hint, "Your father and I have been enjoying some Waterm..."
"AHha!" I shouted a little too loudly over the cell phone, "Watermelon Pickles".
Mom laughed and told my dad that I guessed it. LOL...that is a mom for you, she tells you and then gives you the credit for guessing. You've just got to love them mommas. Then, like a good mother, she informed me that a container of the pickles reserved were for me (um...and my husband). Oh yeah. We are on the way.
So, if you've grown a few watermelons in your Summer garden or you just hate to waste usable items, here is the recipe from my mom:
Our Favorite Sweet Watermelon Pickles
Rind of one 18-25 lb watermelon
1 gallon cold water
2 Tablespoons salt
3 cups Vinegar
7 cups Sugar
1 Tablespoon whole cloves
2 or 3 sticks cinnamon
Choose a melon with firm rind, the thicker white the better. Trim off the outer dark green skin and also the pink flesh. (We leave a thin line of pink at the top.) Cut the white rind into rectangles (example: large french fries). Discard any bad or discolored rind. Soak overnight (refrigerate) in a brine made of the cold water and salt. In the morning, rinse the rind in cold water and let stand in ice water for 1 hour. Drain. Cover with boiling water and simmer until tender. Drain rind again. In another pan, prepare a syrup of vinegar, sugar and spices (tie the spices loosely in cheesecloth). Bring to a boil over medium heat, stir occasionally so the sugar will not burn. Carefully add drained rind to the boiling syrup. Cook gently until rind is golden and transparent. Remove spice bag. Put rind and syrup into a container and refrigerate. ENJOY!
I decided to make Our Favorite Sweet Watermelon Pickles so I could take pictures of the process for you. Wash the Watermelon. If desired, spray it with white vinegar after washing. I was disappointed with this watermelon; it does not have a thick rind but it will work anyway.We use an ice cream scoop to scoop out the melon. This keeps the rind clean for other uses.
Cut off the rounded end of
the melon so it will sit flat. Do not cut into the pink or juice will leak out through the bottom. Note: juice will build up in the melon
shell. Just pour it into a glass
1/3 full of cold tea; enjoy watermelon tea. After the flesh is removed, cut the melon into strips. Then, remove most of the pink on one side and all of the hard green on the other side. Be careful; the green rind can be tough. I decided to process only half of the melon rind so I can write the article for you.Now cut the strips of watermelon rind into bite size pieces. I used a crinkle cutter that I bought years and years ago at one of those expensive home parties that I refuse to go to anymore. I am not picky about perfectly shaped squares of rind; I'm sure they will taste just as good.
Place the rind in salted water and refrigerate overnight. (Cover if smelly food is in the refrigerator or
if something strange is growing in the back of the fridge LOL). The water may discolor just a bit.In the morning, rinse rind with cold
water. Let stand in ice water 1 hr.
(We went to the screening of the new movie "FIREPROOF", so I didn't have a.m. time. Wow. One amazing film; clean with good action.) Anyway, the rind waited in the refrigerator for 24 hours. We enjoyed eating a few at this stage. They are tender and would taste great chopped up smaller for a toss salad.Boil water in a large pan during the last few minutes of the ice water bath. Drain rind again and carefully place rind in boiling water. Simmer until tender. This took about 15 minutes on medium heat. Drain. The rind tastes like cooked squash at this stage.
While the rind is cooking, tie the stick cinnamon and whole cloves in cheesecloth.And prepare the syrup. (Vinegar, sugar and tied spices). Cook at medium heat; bring to a boil. Don't let the mixture burn.The syrup will change from cloudy to translucent. CAREFULLY lower the rind into the boiling syrup. I used my long handled spaghetti server for this task. DANGER: syrup is boiling hot; use wisdom.
Cook until the pickles are also translucent. (This step will require at least 30 to 50 minutes. I lost track of the exact time because I was lost in Dave's Garden.) Remember to remove the spices. Let the pickles cool. Place in another container and refrigerate. Enjoy! A little goes a long way; these are very sweet.
Just as a side note, you may be surprised to find out that the white rind is used as a veggie in other parts of the world. Also, other Watermelon Rind Pickle recipes are available on the internet that are not sweet or that include other ingredients.
According to Wikipedia, watermelon rind is high in citrulline. Citrulline is an amino acid; a key in the urea pathway. It is being studied for the detection of rheumatoid arthritis and is promoted as a performance enhancing substance. Citrulline may also relax blood vessels.1
Try these mini recipes:
- Prepare the watermelon rind as for pickles; do not boil and do not add to syrup. Cook in a fry pan with butter and garlic until tender. Do not burn. These taste like garlic cucumber bits.
- Again, prepare the watermelon rind as above. Cut into small chunks; use only the top, soft portion of the rind near the pink. Serve immediately in a toss salad. (These taste like cucumber).
- Cut the prepared rind into small chunks. Bread and cook like fried okra.
- Cook medium size chunks of prepared watermelon rind in stir fry.
- Cover prepared watermelon rind (cut into small pieces) with a variety of shredded cheeses. Bake until tender and cheese is melted.
- If you are an artist, carve the trimmed watermelon rind into fun designs to decorate food dishes.
And mom, I know you are reading this article, because that is who you are. Thanks mom, for the Watermelon Pickles and all the other wonderful and unusual things you made. I love you (P.S. Mom: Payment can be made with Watermelon Pickles, Rice Pudding with Raisins, Scalloped Potatoes, Purple Salad, Pumpkin Cookies...LOL)
If you'd like to have more information on growing Watermelons, be sure to check out the communities on Dave's Garden. You are sure to find some novel ideas, even if you only have a very small garden space. Here are some links to other Dave's Garden watermelon articles:
I Grew This! By Benjamin Hill (BennysPlace)
Watermelon, Citrullus lanatus ~ Nutrition & Growing Tips By Diana Wind (Wind)
And here is an interesting Dave's Garden thread about melons: