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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Watermelon rind preserves (not pickles)

This is a rare recipe that my family has been enjoying for many years, having learned it when we lived in the Ozarks.  It is for a real preserve that you eat on toast or put over ice cream or whatever.  They have a unique, warm, buttery flavor that is out of this world, and doesn't taste anything like watermelon.  

In all of our moves, we had somehow lost the original recipe, so for several years now, I have been recreating it from memory and refining it.  So this is my own recipe, and I consider it finished and wonderful.  

Eat a nice big melon, save the rind.
Peel the rind and chop up in small pieces, you don't have to remove the leftover red flesh.
Brine the rind overnight.  For every quart of water in your brine, use 2 Tablespoons of salt.
Next day, drain, rinse and drain again.
Measure the rind.  For every cup of rind, mix in 1/4 cup of sugar and let stand until some water is drawn out of the rind.
Simmer covered until the rind is translucent.
Uncover and boil gently to reduce until the preserves are as thick as you want.
Near the end of reducing, add 1 lemon, chopped and seeded. Canned lemon juice will also do. You want the brightness of the lemon for flavor, and also the acidity for canning.
I like to use a hand held blender to puree some of the preserves so the whole is thicker, but leave some larger chunks for texture.  Just stick the blender right in the pot.  This also helps the preserves thicken up faster. 
Put the hot preserves in hot pint or half pint jars, seal and process for 25 minutes in a hot water bath canner.

Processing in this case just means boiling.  If you are using half pint jars, then any large pot will do.  The jars need to be completely submerged with at least 2 inches of water over them.  So have your big pot of water just coming to a boil as you are filling the hot jars with hot preserves, then seal and drop the jars in the boiling water.  Keep the pot at a rolling boil for the full time.  When the time is up lift the jars from the water and let stand undisturbed until cool.  You'll hear them pop as they cool and the lids complete their seal.  After the jars are cool, you can remove the bands.  The vacuum created in the jars is enough to keep the lid securely sealed and on.  You'll need to wash the outside of the jars after they are cooled as some of the preserves will have leaked out into the boiling water.  Don't fill the jars to the top.  There needs to be 1/2" of head space for a half pint jar, more for a pint.  It is easy and fun, try it!