I once heard Garrison Keillor say something to the effect that the only purpose for watermelon pickles was to have an item on the Thanksgiving table that you could pass up. When I was a child at my Grandmothers’ or Great-Aunt’s tables, the very things I looked forward to were corn relish, picallili and watermelon pickles.
I was a late-comer to canning and preserving. My mother never attempted it and I was 50 before I found myself in a country home with a big garden and a lot of produce to use up. Once I got started, I enjoyed canning so much that I spent the entire summer “putting up” everything my husband brought into the kitchen in his oversized basket. We never grew watermelon but I bought a good Indiana melon each summer at the farmer’s market and made these pickles in quantity. Now that I’m alone, I make up one small jar so I can have something on the Thanksgiving table for people to pass on. This recipe won a Blue Ribbon at the Hamilton County Fair (Cincinnati) in 1983.
MOM'S BLUE RIBBON WATERMELON PICKLES
- 3 cups of watermelon rind, prepared*
- 1 cup cold tap water
- 3/4 Tblsp. pickling salt
- 1 tsp. whole cloves
- 1 tsp. whole allspice
- One 2″ piece of cinnamon stick
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup plus 2 Tblsp. granulated sugar
*To prepare watermelon rind:
I used a medium sized seedless watermelon. This melon had a thin rind. Big old-fashioned black-seeded melons have a very thick rind and may need a longer cooking time. The very small melons don’t have enough rind to use in this recipe.
Cut the melon in sections and cube the watermelon to set aside for some good eating. Don’t cut too closely to the white portion of the rind.
Trim off the green rind and scrape the watermelon off the white section. I cut my melon in matchstick strips about 1/2″ wide.
Place the rind strips in a non-metal container, cover with water and add salt. Soak overnight.
The next morning, drain the rind, cover with fresh water and cook approximately 30 minutes at medium heat until almost tender. Add water if needed. Drain.
In a large pan, place the allspice, cloves, cinnamon, white vinegar, water and sugar and bring to a boil. Add the drained rind and simmer gently for about 45 minutes. The brine should be syrupy and cover the rind with a little to spare.
Remove the cinnamon stick and pour pickles into a sterilized 1/2 pint jar and cap.
Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. I’ve found an asparagus steamer is good for processing just a jar or two. Let jar cool on a rack before storing. Allow pickles to cure for at least a week before using for best flavor.