Mary’s (water)Melon Rind Pickles

I have been hearing a lot of talk about watermelon rind pickles this season. I am really quite surprised at how many people have been talking and thinking about them. When I was growing up we had watermelon rind pickles at every pickle-worthy family function, which was most all of them, and I have to admit they were not my favorite (sorry, grandma). My grandmother made watermelon rind pickles dutifully every year. Growing up in a time when nothing could afford to go to waste, folks got creative.  I know out here on the farm we have definitely developed the preservation mentality, and it requires a lot of creativity sometimes. Each week we harvest everything that is ready and most all those goodies have but one 4-6 hour chance to go home with some lucky shopper.  What’s left at the end of the farmers’ markets is destined to be salvaged and transformed into something that will last longer than most fresh produce will. I mean, why throw away something that could be eaten? I have been eating SO MANY watermelons it’s just a shame to throw out the rinds–perfectly edible, slightly tart, very crunchy, but in severe contrast to the sweet soft flesh of the ripe insides. So as promised to those following the farm’s  facebook page, I bring you, with the knowledge of my grandmother and some tweaking by me, (mostly) waste free watermelon:

WATERMELON RIND PICKLES

First you need a BIG ol’ watermelon (a few small ones will do). We use an heirloom variety called Chelsea because it has a nice thick rind on it. Peel the skin off the outside. (Now here’s where I recommend altering the recipe slightly.) It says to leave some of the inside pink on “for color” but I will tell you that this technique also makes it slightly slimey and kinda makes you feel like you’re eating someone else’s leftovers. You do what you want… that is just my opinion. Cut into bite-sized chunks. You should end up with about 8 cups.

Now dissolve 1/2 cup pickling salt in 8 cups of water and soak the rind in the brine for 4 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse well.

Cover the rind with cold water, bring to boil for 8 minutes or until tender. Drain and put in large non-reactive vessel.

Bring 2 cups sugar, 2 cups white vinegar, 2 thinly sliced lemons or limes, 2t whole cloves (or 1/2t clove oil),  2t allspice whole, 4 cinnamon sticks (or 1t cinnamon oil) to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour of the rind and keep submerged for 24 hours.

DAY2:

Drain off the brine into a pan and add another 1 cup of sugar. Boil until dissolved. Pour over rind and keep submerged for 24 hours.

DAY3:

Drain off the brine into a pan and add another 1 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil. Add the rind and bring back to boil.

Pack rind into hot sterilized pint jars with a cinnamon stick from the brine in each. Fill with brine leaving a 1/2 inch of headspace and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Enjoy in the dark of winter and think of summer! Be happy that you just transformed something you would’ve  composted into something yummy!

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