When I was in elementary school, I had a brief but intense love affair with poetry. My favorite poem from that time was–and remains–“Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received From a Friend Called Felicity” by John Tobias. I was captivated especially by these lines:
“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;”
If ever a passage ignited my understanding of language as a paintbrush, that description of watermelon was it!
The poet goes on to lament the passage of time, the loss of those golden childhood summers. Then he concludes:
“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.”
(You can read the entire poem here.)
At the height of summer, I’m a tremendous fan of watermelon, but I’ve never tried pickling it. This vintage recipe for watermelon pickles intrigues me. It sounds like a great way to use up the rind, after you’ve slurped away all the delicious pink innards. This recipe, taken from a community cookbook, comes from the Old South and is said to be well over one hundred years old. I’d never even heard of some of the ingredients. Apparently oil of cinnamon and oil of cloves are available at drug stores. If you dare to try it, I’ll be interested to hear your results.
10 lbs. watermelon rind (minus the outer green rind), cut into cubes
12 pounds white sugar
1 quart white vinegar
40 drops of oil of cinnamon
40 drops of oil of cloves
Cover the cut up rind with cold water and pickling lime (make up the lime according to the directions on the package using cold water and pour it over the rind). Let this sit for 24 hours. Pour off the water and lime and rinse well. Cover with cold water and simmer for 10 minutes. Rinse with cold water again, and cover with sugar, vinegar, oil of cloves and oil of cinnamon (better use crockery for this). Let this stand for three days, stirring frequently, about 3 or 4 times a day. On the 5th day, simmer the rind and sugar mixture for 10 minutes and put in clean jars. They will keep without processing. They will look sort of funny during the simmer, but do not worry. Do not use them for six months if you can wait that long.
(Photo source: whataboutwatermelon.com)