Summer Food: Recipes for a summer supper
Pickled watermelon rind brings back memories of the summer country life as a child, a group effort in the kitchen that everyone enjoyed, relishing the thought of eating these refreshing crisp chilled pickles along with lunches and suppers that always included some other seasonal bounty plucked right out of the garden.
There are two basic methods for pickling watermelon rind, the quick method that produces a soft texture or the longer method that produces a crisp texture. The longer method requires sterilizing canning jars and a boiling water bath for canning. Not as complicated as it sounds and the advantage of canning is the pickles will store well, improving with age, for at least six months without refrigeration. Recipes for both methods follow.
If you are going to bother to go through the effort of cutting up a watermelon that will provide 4 or 5 pounds of rind you may as well do it with the best possible outcome in mind. By using the canning method, you will be able to enjoy these delicious crisp pickles for months to come. The recipe, thanks to Marion Cunningham’s cook wise advice in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, includes some ingredients that you will have to search out, including clove and cinnamon oils, that you may find at your local essential oils shop, and slaked lime (calcium carbonate), that you might find at your local pharmacy. I was not so lucky finding slaked lime but, undeterred, I recalled that slaked lime is still used by Asian old timers as a part of the mix for betel chew. Off I went to the local traditional market’s betel chew vendor and sure enough…found! I briefly discussed slaked lime, posted in Polenta (Basics) that you might care to reference for additional information or go online for an in-depth overview.
Pickled Watermelon Rind; for putting up/canning makes six 12 oz jars or three 24 oz jars
1 medium watermelon
- 4-6 cups water (adjusted to cover the rind completely)
- 2 tablespoons slaked lime (or substitute 1 cup salt)
- 10 cups of sugar
- 3 ½ cups cider vinegar
- 3 cups of water (or more if needed to cover the rind completely)
- 1/2 scant teaspoon pure oil of cinnamon
- 1/2 scant teaspoon pure oil of clove
Cut away all the red melon and remove the green skin with a vegetable peeler and cut the rind into bite size cubes. (approximately 4 pounds prepared rind)
Choose a nonreactive container that will hold all the rind with the soaking/pickling liquids. Add 4-6 cups water to the container and stir in the slaked lime (or salt) until completely dissolved. Add the rind, cover, and refrigerate for 12 hours.
Remove from the refrigerator, remove the rind and place in a large colander. Rinse and allow to drain. Discard the soaking solution. Place the rind back into the empty soaking/pickling container.
In a large pot combine the sugar, vinegar, water, and oils of cinnamon and clove. Bring to a full boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is clear. Pour the hot liquid over the rind to completely cover. Add additional water if needed. Place a plate over the rind to submerge all the rind in the pickling liquid. Allow to cool, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Repeat this process for 4 days, re-boiling the pickling liquid each day and pouring it back over the rind, cool, cover, and refrigerate.
On the 4th day, place a large stock pot with lid on the stove (or canning pot) fitted with a wire rack on the bottom so that the canning jars will not touch the bottom of the pot. Place the empty canning jars in the pot (without the sealing rings and screw bands) and fill jars and pot with enough water to cover the canning jars by 1 inch. Be sure the jars do not touch the sides of the pot. Bring to a full boil and put the lid on the pot and boil for 15 minutes to sterilize the jars. Remove the jars, emptying the water in them back into the pot and set the jars aside on kitchen towels. Keep the water at a simmer while you prepare the rind to fill the canning jars.
Place sealing rings and screw bands in a separate bowl and pour some hot water (not boiling hot) over them to sterilize them as well.
As before, pour the pickling solution into a pot and bring to a full boil. Pour over the rind and then proceed to fill the sterilized canning jars with the pickled rind and pickling liquid leaving at least 1/8 inch of space at the top of the jar. Wipe the rim of the jars with a clean cloth and place the sealing ring, with the sealing compound placed directly on the corresponding rim of the jar, and screw on the screw band tightly. Place the filled jars in the pot using large tongs and bring the water back up to a full boil, cover with lid, and boil for 12 minutes. Remove the jars and set on kitchen towels. Cool the jars completely before moving them.
You can remove the screw bands after 24 hours and inspect the sealing rings to be sure that the jars are SEALED! If, by chance, they are not, you will have to start all over again, but very unlikely if you have followed the procedure as described.
Put the jars up, as they say, in a place away from direct light and fluctuating heat.
Is it worth all the effort? Most certainly, and once you have canned a few times it becomes routine!
Quick Watermelon Rind Pickles: makes three 12 oz jars
- 2 pounds peeled watermelon rind, cut into bite size pieces
- water to cover
- 4 cups sugar
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
Place the rind in a large pot with enough water to cover completely. Add the sugar, cider vinegar, cloves, and cinnamon and bring to a full boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat down to a low simmer and cook until the rind is soft and slightly translucent. The aroma that fills the kitchen is intoxicating! Cooking time will vary. Tasting is the best way to determine when the pickles are finished to your liking. Place in clean jars and allow to cool completely before screwing on the lids. Refrigerate and serve chilled. The pickles will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Tomato season is arriving in the northern hemisphere and come September you will have more tomatoes than you know what to do with. Why not put them up in your pantry for the winter months and have summery tomato sauces available throughout the year?
Whole tomatoes and tomato sauces do require the water bath method for canning, but the process is quite simple (detailed canning instructions available online) and the rewards are worth the effort as you will be enjoying this year’s summer tomatoes until next year’s season arrives.
A kitchen tangent is in order here to simplify processing vine ripened fresh tomatoes. I discovered the amazing Super Passatutto Velox Universal/ Italian tomato press over 30 years ago and I am still using it to this day. It’s an ingeniously designed manual contraption that separates the skin and seeds from the tomato pulp. Simply cut up whole fresh tomatoes and drop them into the feeding bowl on the top of the mill and crank away. The pulp is extruded separately from the seeds and skin. Pass the seeds and skin through the press several times to extract every last bit of the pulp and… voila! Your tomatoes are processed and ready to add to your ingredients for a cooked fresh tomato sauce. The Velox tomato press is still available on line from various vendors and well worth the investment if you intend to make summer batches of fresh tomato sauces for canning or making sauces for a large parties. A food mill will essentially do the same thing with a little more effort, but there is something about using the Velox mill that defies explanation. It just produces a better tomato pulp!
Here is a simple recipe for a rustic cooked fresh tomato sauce with an added hint of natural sweetness, smokiness, and some chili heat if you are so inclined.
- 10 whole vine ripened tomatoes + 2 cups vine ripened ripe cherry tomatoes, coarsely chopped and pressed/milled to extract the pulp
- 2 yellow bell peppers + 1 fresh red chili (if using), flame roasted and peeled, seeds removed, and pressed/milled along with the tomatoes
Rustic Cooked Fresh Tomato Sauce:
Makes 5 cups/serves 4
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 8 leeks, peeled down to the soft interior and minced
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- teaspoon dried lemon thyme, crushed
- tomato pulp from 10 large vine ripened tomatoes and 2 cups vine ripened cherry tomatoes
- 2 yellow bell peppers (flame roasted and peeled) pressed/milled with the tomatoes
- 1 fresh red chile (flame roasted, peeled, and seeded) pressed/milled (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt + more to taste when sauce is finished
- fresh ground pepper to taste (if not using chili)
Heat the olive oil in a non-reactive pot over medium low heat. Add the minced leeks and cook for 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and lemon thyme and cook an additional 4 minutes. Add the tomato, yellow pepper, and chile pulp along with their juices and turn the heat down and bring the sauce to a simmer. No need to add additional water! Cook for about 45 minutes until the sauce is reduced by half and quite thick. As this is a rustic sauce there is no need for straining. The flavors and texture give the sauce a hearty rustic appeal.
Serve tossed with freshly cooked pasta glazed with extra virgin olive oil is my preference. The fresh tomato flavor melds deliciously with pasta on its own, but a mild grated cheese or fresh ricotta tossed into the pasta compliments the sauce nicely as well.