I grew up on a farm in Northwest Iowa, the oldest of six kids, where leisurely sitting was not an option. Every year in early spring Dad would till our garden, making it bigger as our family grew.
Watermelon was always a garden staple.
As a child, I learned the ancient art of ‘thumping’ a watermelon to ensure that a good watermelon was picked. The secret to ‘thumping’ is to listen to a hollow sound when rapping your knuckles in the middle of the melon. I also learned that this is not necessarily a guaranteed test, many an overripe watermelon was thrown to our pigs.
So, how do you pick a good watermelon?
First look for a firm, symmetrical watermelon free from bruises, cuts or dents. Second, lift it up. It should be heavy for its size. Third, the underside should have a creamy yellow spot. Once picked, watermelons will not continue to ripen.
This recipe is from years gone by. These pickles have also been called “candy” due to their sweetness. Here is a recipe passed down through generations.
Watermelon Rind Pickles
From Grandma Tiefenthaler
3 quarts watermelon rind, unpared
3 quarts cold water
¾ cup salt
2 quarts ice cubes
Pare rind and all pink edges from the watermelon. Cut into desired sizes. Cover with brine made by mixing the salt with water. Add ice cubes and let stand 4 hours. Drain; rinse in water. Cover with cold water and cook until fork tender, about 10 minutes (do not overcook). Drain.
9 cups sugar
3 cups vinegar, white or cider
3 cups water
½ cup “Red Hot” cinnamon candies
1 Tbsp. whole cloves
1 lemon, thinly sliced without seeds
Combine sugar, vinegar, water, cinnamon candies, and cloves (tied in a clean, white cloth). Boil 5 minutes and pour over drained watermelon; add lemon slices. Let stand overnight.
Heat watermelon in syrup to boiling and cook slowly 1 hour. Pack hot pickles loosely into clean, hot pint jars. Cover with boiling syrup to ½-inch from top. Wipe jar rims. Top with lids. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Makes 4/5 pints.
This is a fantastic recipe, sometime I add other colored bell peppers and/or peaches, mango, or pineapple.
Watermelon Fire and Ice Salsa
3 cups chopped watermelon
1 Tbsp. chopped green onion
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
1 Tbsp. chopped jalapeno pepper
2 Tbsp. lime juice
½ Tsp. garlic salt
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, mix well and enjoy.
Sandy Alley has enough canned from her garden to feed the whole subdivision for several years. She previously wrote the very popular Cooks Corner column for the Stillwater County newspaper in Columbus.