I love to can. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I really do love it. It really doesn’t matter what I’m putting up, so much as the process of the task. One of the things I like most is that as I prepare whatever it is I’m making, I can think. I can take a trip back in time to the things my mother canned or I can think about my family and how they will enjoy the food. This triggers all sorts of lovely and funny memories. I like to think.
As the kids head back to school, I can’t help but think back to my school days. As a matter of fact, this particular recipe takes me back to 4th grade and a substitute teacher by the name of Mrs. Shaddy.
As substitute teachers went, she was good at what she did and she didn’t take guff of of anyone. She was unflappable, as I remember it, I’m sure because she was a seasoned teacher and I imagine there was very little that she hadn’t already seen or heard by that point. She also, unlike other subs we experienced, would teach the lessons. If the teacher didn’t leave a lesson plan, she brought one of her own. No reading and quiet time when she was in charge, we did work and I, for one, appreciated the structure that brought. And usually, if we got the work done in good time, we were rewarded. THIS is what my most vivid and actual memory of her stems from. The reward…
She always brought food! Something for us to taste and experience. She would bring vegetables and fruits from her garden usually, but this one particular time, the one time that sticks in my mind with the greatest clarity, was the time she brought things she had canned!
I guess you could say this is all the proof I need that canning runs deeply through my soul when one of the best and clearest memories I have of 4th grade is that of a substitute teacher bringing in canned fruits and vegetables for us to taste!
I remember her bringing pickles and jams and jellies, all of the usual stuff, but she brought other things too, things my mother didn’t can. Things my 10 year old person had never experienced! Exotic things like pickled okra, dilly green beans (did my mom know about these?), pickled pears and Watermelon Rind pickles!
WHAT? Pickled WATERMELON RIND? You’re not supposed to eat the rind! EVERYONE says so. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles, virtually every adult you ever came across would say, “Don’t eat the white part! It will give you a tummy ache! Stay clear of that!” Yet, here was a grown up, a figure of authority, offering me a pickled WATERMELON RIND! Ha! You bet I was going to try it!
At this point I have to say, the memory is vague. I can’t tell you what it tasted like, just that I liked it, or maybe I just liked that she shared it with us. I also liked that she didn’t shame us if we didn’t like it or didn’t want to try it, as some adults were inclined to do.
That tasting day was a wonderful experience that has remained in my memories ALL of these years and it was the whole reason I stood at my table for 2 hours yesterday cutting up and paring 2 small watermelons I had purchased from the farmer’s market on Saturday. These pickles are not quick fixin’s. Not a swift afternoon project, but I think you will find, as I did, they are worth it, and there is a lot of time to think. 🙂
Before I share the recipe and the pictures with you, I’d like to make a few notes. I made these pickles exactly to the recipe, all the way down to the NINE cups of sugar (you read that right NINE). With that and the aromatic spices, they were a little too much like a bread and butter pickle for my liking. I’m not a fan of Bread and Butter Pickles or Sweet Pickles, but that’s just me. If YOU like a sweet and aromatic pickle, then you will be very happy with the recipe as it stands.
If you like a little more tang in your pickle, as I do, I would suggest cutting back the sugar and adding more vinegar. I added more vinegar to the mix this morning when I set it to simmer for an hour on the stove…I told you it was time consuming. I would also use less cloves, if any at all.
My adjustments would be as follows:
- 6 cups of sugar
- 4 cups of white vinegar (give or take 1/2 cup)
So here are the steps. I will put the full recipe at the end of the page.
1. Pare rind and all of the pink edges from the watermelon. I found it easiest to remove the pink flesh then chop the rind up into 1″ chunks before I pared it.
2. Cover with a salt water brine made from 3/4 cup of salt and 3 quarts of cold water and 2 quarts of ice cubes. Let it stand 3 to 4 hours.
While it sits you can clean up. I kept the seeds separate from my parings so I could compost them. The flesh will, of course, be eaten so all I had to throw away were the seeds! Got to love a recipe with little going to waste!
OK, so now that they’ve soaked, drain the rinds and rinse them well in cold water. Then cover them with cold water and cook them about 10 min. and drain again. Toss in a thinly slice lemon.
While the rinds cook, assemble your syrup. Tie up your cinnamon and cloves in a piece of cheese cloth. (Doesn’t that look like too much cloves? Maybe it’s just me.)
Anyway, this bundle of spices goes into the pot with the 9 cups of sugar, 3 cups of white vinegar and 3 cups of water and it all gets boiled together for about 5 minutes.
Once the syrup is done boiling, pour it over the rinds and lemon slices.
And you’re done! For today. Set this bowl of beautifulness in the refrigerator over night. This is the point at which I tasted it and decided that it needed more tangy-ness. I was looking for something more like a sweet-and-sour flavor, which I achieved by adding more vinegar this morning when I put it back in the pot to simmer.
So, once you bring the combined syrup, rind mixture to a boil you need to simmer it for 1 hour and finally you are ready to LOOSELY pack it into hot pint jars (1 was able to get 6 pints out of it). Then process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.
Then out they come! Pretty as a picture!
I have to tip my hat to Mrs. Shaddy. Not just for being a fine substitute teacher but for sharing her watermelon pickles with us. If her recipe took as long as this one did, and she turned around and shared them with a bunch of picky little 4th graders she was a better woman than I. I’m not sure I’ll be so generous with mine after all of that work, so I guess if you get a taste or a jar of these from me then you will know for sure where you stand!
On reflection, I would have to say that Mrs. Shaddy loved what she did. She must have. She shared the fruits of her labors with us and she shared her knowledge and she left a loving, and lasting impression on this little girl. Hats off to her and to all of the teachers out there. Those who bravely go in and sub for the regular teacher and those who go in every day to make a difference. And lest you think that you are not reaching your charges, remember Mrs. Shaddy. I’m sure she never imagined how sharing her labor of love with us would impact any of us. She probably didn’t think anything of it at the time, but that memory has challenged me to try something new in the kitchen and it has given me a sweet memory that has lasted nearly 40 years.
What do and what you say matters. It matters a lot! Here’s to a GREAT school year! Let’s make some memories!
Watermelon Rind Pickles
From “So Easy To Preserve”
by the Cooperative Extension of the University of Georgia
3 quarts (about 6 pounds) watermelon rind, unpared
3/4 C. salt
3 quarts water
2 quarts (2 trays) ice cubes
9 C. sugar
3 C. distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
3 C. Water
1 Tablespoon (about 48) whole cloves
6 cinnamon sticks, 1-inch-pieces
1 lemon, thinly sliced, with seeds removed.
Pare rind and all pink edges from the watermelon. Cut into 1-inch squares or fancy shapes as desired. cover with brine made by mixing the salt with 3 quarts cold water. Add ice cubes. Let stand 3 to 4 hours.
Drain; rinse in cold water. Cover with cold water and cook until fork tender, about 10 minutes.
Combine sugar, vinegar, water and spices (tied in a clean, thin, white cloth). Boil 5 minutes and pour over the watermelon; add lemon slices. Let stand overnight in the refrigerator.
Heat watermelon in syrup to boiling and cook slowly 1 hour. Pack hot pickles loosely into clean, hot pint jars. To each jar add 1 piece of stick cinnamon from spice bag; cover with oiling syrup to 1/2 inch form top. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims. Adjust lids. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.