Watermelon Rind Pickles

I’ve added my own mix of spices to Kevin’s great recipe.  I’ve grown quite fond of the taste of star anise lately.  And I’ve always been a fan of hot peppers and prefer using the dehydrated, skinny, Thai pepper or chile arbol.  These are not my grandma Opal’s pickles, but I think she’d approve.  She didn’t want to waste anything either.

(adapted from Kevin West, Saving the Season).  I strongly recommend this book.  It’s not only a GREAT book on canning, pickling, and preserving; it’s full of great stories and is beautfullly produced.  I just worry about spilling sticky stuff on it.  Thanks to Master Food Preserver Sarah Spitz for recommending it.

10-15 pound watermelon (organically grown)
¼ cup kosher salt or sea salt. Do not use iodized salt for pickles.
6 cups water (filtered water is preferred)
2 ½ cups red wine vinegar or cider vinegar (no distilled white vinegar)
1 ½ cups cane sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
½ tsp allspice berries
½ tsp black pepper corns
5 whole cloves
3-5 dried red chilies
½ star anise
½ tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp. yellow or brown mustard seeds
1 dried green cardamom pod, crushed to release seeds
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
–After you eat the flesh of the watermelon, peel the green skin off of the watermelon and scrape the flesh from inside of the melon. Leaving a little pink flesh is quite attractive. It’s the pale green inner rind that you will be pickling. Cut up the watermelon rind into one inch chunks or thin sticks of equal size.
–Make a brine of the kosher salt and water and pour over the rinds. Weight them with a plate, and cover the bowl with a clean dish tower. Set aside for about 8-12 hours (over night is good).
–The next day, when you wake up early, drain the rinds and rinse with fresh water. Combine the vinegar, sugar, and molasses in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Crush the spices—except for the star anise and bay leaf, and add to the pan. When the vinegar syrup boils, add the rinds to the pan, cover it, and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the rinds are transparent. Larger pieces will take longer. Keep turning the pieces in the pan, replacing the lid every few minutes. When they are done, remove the watermelon pieces with a slotted spoon, and pack them into 4 sterilized pint jars. Leave a generous ½ inch head space.
–Bring the syrup back to a boil, and pour it over the rinds to cover, leaving ½ headspace. Run a skewer or thin spatula around the inside edge of the jars to release bubbles. Top up with more syrup as needed. If you run out of syrup, top up the jars with straight red wine or cider vinegar. Wipe the rims, seal the jars, and process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes Wait a week or two before eating. The flavors will develop.

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