My grandmother was an excellent cook...I fondly remember summer afternoons with cousins crowded around the kitchen table eating our lunch (we call it dinner in the South). Vegetable soup, home made yeast rolls baked in an iron skillet, German-style mashed potatoes with boiled egg and onions. And often there would be some home made sour kraut, relish or other tasty treat served from Mama Hall's blue Mason jars. This week, I'm going to share with you how to make her Watermelon Rind Preserves.

watermelonWatermelon rind preserves are easy to make, they just take a little time. They are also not diet-friendly, since they are mostly sugar, but as with everything, you can enjoy them in moderation.

Getting started is easy. All you need is a watermelon, sugar, a lemon, salt and a few cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. If I plan to make the preserves, I wash my watermelon before cutting it to remove any soil and bacteria that may be clinging to the outer shell. It is then best to cut your watermelon and chunk it into serving pieces without rind. This way no one has to keep up with their own rinds as they eat.

watermelonSave your rind in another bowl and leave just a little of the pink on it. Peel the outer skin from the inner part, just like peeling an apple or potato. What you have left are strips of whitish-green tipped with a little pink. Chunk it up into pieces roughly 1/2” to 1” and put in a large bowl. Mix up a brine of ½ cup non-iodized salt in a gallon of water and pour over your watermelon rind chunks. Cover and leave them overnight. The salt helps pull water from the rind and this makes them easier to cook down.

watermelonThe next day, drain your watermelon rind chunks and I rinse them just a little to remove surface salt. Pour them into a large stockpot and add 1 cup of sugar for every cup of rind. (I told you this was a sugar bomb!) I had about 7 cups of chunks at this point. Wash and cut a large lemon into thin slices, removing the seeds as you go. Add this to the stockpot along with the watermelon rind and sugar. The sugar will candy the lemon rind as it cooks, so it makes a tasty extra. I take a piece of muslin or cheesecloth and tie a couple of broken cinnamon sticks and about a dozen whole cloves in it. You can cook these right in with the preserves if you want, but the cloves disintegrate and leave unsightly black specks, so I tie them in cloth to make them easier to discard.

watermelonCook on medium high heat and bring everything to a boil. There is no need to add any liquid to this. The watermelon will release quite a bit of moisture as it cooks. Boil this until the liquid is syrupy and thick. It took this batch about an hour. I dripped a bit on a plate and when it was about the consistency of pancake syrup, I removed the stockpot from the heat.

Bottle up into hot, sterile canning jars. Seal and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. I ended up with 3 pints packed pretty well with the watermelon and almost a pint of extra syrup. I also added a couple of whole cloves as I was pouring up the preserves just for show. Now, this doesn't taste anything like watermelon, so don't be expecting that, it has a flavor all its own. Use it like any other jam, jelly or marmalade. With summer drawing to a close, make that sunshine last and cook up some extra for holiday gifts for friends and relatives.