Wait--I might wanna eat it. This week, I've had a couple of neat experiments in stretching my definition of "food" just a bit. It's easy to imagine what it might have been like in the days before refrigeration, and how you'd have wanted to make the absolute most of every bit of food you produced, before giving over what absolutely couldn't be eaten to the compost heap or the livestock. Over here, I wrote about how it happened that I made "grape" jelly out of the the hulls of purple-hull peas (and it was yummy, too!). I'm still kind of amazed that you can start with something completely inedible, and wind up with a sweet spread for toast and PB&Js, but there in my kitchen sits the proof.
But better than my faux-grape jelly, by far, is what I just finished putting up the other day, after Bella and I finished a big, beautiful watermelon from the farmer's market. The watermelon meat scraps and seeds went to the chickens (after being frozen), for a cooling treat on a hot afternoon...and then I set to work on the watermelon rinds. I'd had watermelon pickles before, but never dreamed I could actually make them myself, until I spent the better part of a day researching recipes, finally settling on one that was sent my way by a fellow BYC forum member, who reports having gotten it originally from a past edition of "Betty Crocker's Cookbook."
Peel the smooth, shiny outer skin from the melon with a potato-peeler, cut it into one-inch cubes, and what you've got is something similar in flavor and texture to a very firm, seedless cucumber. It's extraordinary. You start by brining it in cold water overnight.
I would imagine that you could pickle this rind in pretty much any style you can use for a cucumber pickle, but I went with the traditional Southern "watermelon pickle" flavor. All I needed was apple cider vinegar, organic sugar, lemon, water, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. I just followed the cooking instructions in the recipe, then packed the result into sterilized, hot jars, and processed the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. The hardest part was getting the jars out of the canning pot, since I do not yet own a jar-lifter, and am not particularly graceful.
These pickles are so good that, when I realized I wouldn't have quite enough to fill a tenth pint jar full, I caught myself while reaching for a half-pint jar, and opted instead to just eat an entire half-pint of the still-warm pickles, one after another, while standing over my kitchen sink. Great galloping wampus-cats, but these things are delicious. I can only imagine how good they'll be a few weeks from now, if I can manage to leave them alone that long.
Thanks to my friend SJ (and to my friend Adena for looking it up), I know that I'm not alone in my admiration of a good watermelon pickle, either. This is a pickle that inspires poetry.
Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity
During that summer
When unicorns were still possible;
When the purpose of knees
Was to be skinned;
When shiny horse chestnuts
Fitted with straws
Crammed with tobacco
Stolen from butts
In family ashtrays)
Were puffed in green lizard silence
While straddling thick branches
Far above and away
From the softening effects
During that summer--
Which may never have been at all;
But which has become more real
Than the one that was--
Thick imperial slices
Melting frigidly on sun-parched tongues
Dribbling from chins;
Leaving the best part,
The black bullet seeds,
To be spit out in rapid fire
Against the wall
Against the wind
Against each other;
And when the ammunition was spent,
There was always another bite:
It was a summer of limitless bites,
Of hungers quickly felt
And quickly forgotten
With the next careless gorging.
The bites are fewer now.
Each one is savored lingeringly,
But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.