Everybody I know loves watermelon rind pickles. And, I know a man who makes some of the best around. I have written about him before and here I am again touting his recipe and skills for this delicious watermelon rind pickle recipe.
Steven Palmer Dowdney has been able to develop some of the best tasting products that I have eaten. I have come to the conclusion that he has a taste gene that is a rarity when it comes to being able to put sugar and spices together for pickles. But then again, for this recipe, he had the help of two grandmothers, one from the north and the other from the south.
According to Steve in his book Putting Up, “One cannot have a southern canning book without including the fruit most associated with the south, the watermelon. But, pickling the rind is as much a northern delicacy as it is a southern labor of love. When going through my grandmother’s recipes I found a letter from my paternal grandmother, a Yankee from Philadelphia. After my parents wedding, she sent the recipe for the pickle since there ‘seemed to be a void in the Rockland Plantation repertoire of goodies.’”
When you see Steve at the farmer’s market selling pickles, you may not know that he is a former Airborne, Special Forces Ranger, combat veteran, and a graduate of the Citadel. But, long before his life in the military he lived on Rockland Plantation off the coast of South Carolina, with his grandmother who “put up” or canned while Steve’s father was overseas and his “mother worked for naval intelligence in a far away city.”
Over the years, Steve has “preserved” so to speak, recipes from other family members, as well as developing his own recipes such as the artichoke relish that we attributed to him in another article. Some people say that Steve’s artichoke relish is some of the best in the country. I agree.
Steven Palmer Dowdney has two books on “putting up” and appropriately, they are called,Putting Up and Putting Up More, both published by Gibbs Smith. His books are full of old fashioned and new-fashioned chutneys, pickles, relishes, marmalades, sauces, and dressings. If you want a good Creole sauce or gazpacho, you can find those recipes in his book also.
Watermelon Rind Pickles Steve Dowdney
1 watermelon rind, prepared (see preparation instructions below)
½ cup canning lime
8 cups cider vinegar
8 pounds sugar
2 tablespoons whole allspice, tied in a cheesecloth
2 tablespoons whole cloves, tied in the same cheesecloth with allspice
1 stick cinnamon per pint jar (1/2 stick for ½ pints)
Remove rind from soak, rinse and cover in a pot with fresh water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, about 1 hour; drain and rinse.
Bring vinegar to a boil; add sugar and dissolve; add rind and remaining ingredients except cinnamon sticks. Simmer over low heat for 1 hour, or until syrup is thick. Remove spices in cheesecloth.
Place a cinnamon stick in each jar.
Hot pack by filling with rind chunks and then top off to canning line with syrup according to safe canning practices.
Preparing the watermelon rind- Peel the dark green off the melon and cut into workable sections.
Cut the red and almost all the pink off the rind (a tiny bit of pink looks good!).
Cut the rind into edible, mouth-sized squares or rectangles.
Place chunks into boiling water, reduce heat, wait 3 minutes and remove.
Dissolve canning lime in ½ gallon cool water, add cooled rind and allow to soak refrigerated overnight.
(Follow jar manufacturer’s directions on sterilizing jars, lids, and processing the finished pickles in a hot water bath at 212º- recommended time is usually no less than 15 minutes. LW)
By Stacey Hirvela, Spring Meadow Nursery
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners/ColorChoice Shrubs
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