I love watermelon. Eating it makes me imagine the Deep South in high summer; sitting on a front porch in a rocking chair, sipping a mint julep and spitting the black pips for the dog to chase across the lawn. Back in the real world I have to make do with sitting on a rickety deckchair in my urban garden, but even that does not diminish the fun. As Caruso said '...it's a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face'.
When I was growing up I somehow came into the possession of an old, battered copy of Laura Ingalls Wilder's 'Farmer Boy', a book about her future husband Alonso's childhood on a farm in upstate New York. In it they ate grape jelly, made watermelon pickles and grew pumpkins; all things that seemed very exotic and mysterious to a girl growing up in the leafy Home Counties.
It was only this summer, after my successes last year making strawberry jam, chutney and pickled green tomatoes, that I decided to branch out into the unfamiliar and use some of the piles of watermelon rind that would normally go onto the compost heap. To keep the American 'feel' to the idea I had in my head I decided to use lots of cinnamon, and a few cloves and mustard seeds, for a sweet and spicy watermelon/cinnamon flavour combination.
It's a very simple recipe, (although you have to remember have to pare the green skin from the rind and soak in brine the night before) and fills the kitchen with a lovely warm and spicy fug as it bubbles contentedly away. After leaving to mature for a couple of weeks I've served this with hot pork, cold ham and in cheese sandwiches. It's pretty versatile stuff and can also be used in sweet dishes, but more of that in a later blog.
Watermelon Rind Pickles
750g Watermelon rind
1 tbsp Salt
350ml Cider vinegar
2 Cinnamon sticks
1 Tsp mustard seeds
First carefully cut all the green skin from the melon, leave a bit of the red flesh for colour, and cut rind into dice.
Half fill a bowl with water, add salt, stir and then add rind. Leave overnight in the fridge.
Drain rind, rinse in cold water then place in a pan. Add fresh water, bring to simmer and cook until the rind is tender (about 30mins)
Drain rind again and add sugar, spices vinegar and water back into the clean pan.
Bring mixture to the boil then add rind and simmer gently until brine is syrupy and reduced and just covering the rind. Add more water if necessary.
Pour hot mixture into clean, sterilised jars, seal and store for two weeks before eating.