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Friday, August 10, 2012

Watermelon Pickles

OK, due to popular demand.....

Here is how I make watermelon pickles.

But first, the story.

Let me start off by saying that I hate pickles. I truly loathe them. I am not a terribly picky eater, but if I go to a restaurant and order a burger or sandwich, I will emphasize to the server that I do not want pickles - not even on the plate. If they bring my food and a pickle is ON my food, I will send it back (if it's just on the plate, I can deal with it, but I might throw up in my mouth a little as I flick the offending pickle off to the side). Seriously. Ask anyone who has gone out to eat with me.

However, my mother made watermelon pickles when I was younger, and something about them is just downright addicting. I can sit with a jar of these and a fork and eat the entire thing. I don't know why - maybe because it's not a cucumber (which I do love by the way - just not when they're pickles) and maybe because it's more sweet. But whatever it is, I love these things.


I'm going to apologize right now for the lack of pictures of the process. I took a few, but the camera on my phone sucks in interior lighting. But hopefully you can get the general idea.

First off, get a watermelon. I'm told that seedless ones work the best - I don't know if that's true or not, but I haven't tempted fate yet and I always get the seedless ones.

I was pretty stoked last week when we went to the grocery store and found a 28-pound seedless watermelon for $4.49. I can eat watermelon all day long, and so can the kids, so we knew that we would eat it - all of it.

And I was even more stoked to find out that it was grown right here in Kansas! I love buying local!

In order to keep the rinds as cootie-free as possible, I slice the watermelon and then cut the meat away from the rind before I give it to the kids - that way they aren't gnawing on the rinds that are then going to be pickled *shudder*. Anyway, I cut the slices pretty thin - about 1/2-1" wide. After I cut the meat off of them, I usually just stick the strips of rind into big ziploc bags in the fridge until I get around to doing the rest of the work (I've let them sit like that for close to a week with no problems).

Then I take the strips of rind and make sure that all of the pink stuff is scraped off (some always stays, but I get as much as possible) and then use a veggie peeler to scrape off the green outer skin. That stuff is tough and you don't want to eat it. Then I cut the stripped and peeled rinds into chunks, no bigger than about 3/4-1" square.

Toss the chunks into a big bowl, sprinkle some pickling salt over them, and cover them with water. Shove them in the fridge overnight (or for a day or two).

When you're ready to do the actual pickling, take them out of the fridge, drain the water off and cover them with fresh water. I usually put them in a colander and rinse them really well to get all of the salt off of them. Put them in a big pot, cover them with water, and cook them over medium heat for about 30 minutes or so - until they start to get tender.

In the meantime, get your jars and lids ready and start them to boiling - because you know, it takes about forever to get that big canner full of water to boil.

In another big pan, prepare the "pickling juice" as I like to call it.

Now, don't yell at me - because this isn't an exact science. I'll explain it as well as I can.

You'll need equal parts of white vinegar and water. For my big-ish pot, I used 3 cups of each. Then add the same amount of sugar, plus some (see? that's the not-exact-science part). I used about 4 cups of sugar. I like them to be more sweet than sour.

Then you're going to need WHOLE allspice, WHOLE cloves, and STICK cinnamon. These can get super expensive if you're making a lot, so I suggest looking for a place to buy them in bulk. Seriously, my local chain grocery store charged almost $70 per pound for stick cinnamon because they only sold it an ounce at a time. I went across town to a store that sells it in bulk, and got it for just over $5 per pound. But I digress.....

For my 3C vinegar/3C water/~4C sugar juice, I added about 2 tablespoons each of the cloves and allspice and about 10 whole cinnamon sticks. You can vary this and tweak it to your own personal preferences.

Bring that to a boil, and then add the watermelon chunks to it. Simmer the whole mess for about 45 minutes.

Mmmm....smells so good....

In the meantime, get your prepared jars and lids out of the boiling water so that they can be filled. Use a jar funnel to fill the jars with the pickles - just make sure that you pull the cinnamon sticks out first. Be sure that you have enough juice to cover the pickles in the jar, and pour the cloves and allspice right in with them. Put the lids on, and put them back into the canner. Boil the closed jars for about 5 minutes, and then take them out and let them cool. Make sure that you have a good seal on the jars, and then stash them on a shelf somewhere - let them sit for a couple of weeks before you eat them to give all of the flavors time to really "soak" into the pickles.


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