This is fair week in both Sedalia, Missouri and Springfield, Illinois. Here in the agricultural states, fairs are a very big deal. So much excellence and personal pride on display. Barns and barns full of the showiest livestock and most beautiful produce. Missouri has a big wine competition, and of course there are competitons for baked goods, preserves, and many culinary acheivements. Since I couldn't make it to the fair this year, I thought I'd still enjoy the spirit of the events by putting up some watermelon rind pickles of my own.
I took a recipe from "State Fair Recipes" a compilation of blue ribbon winning recipes put together by Catherine Hanley. I used a recipe from Elaine Pretz from Portland Oregon. The pickles won a blue ribbon at the Oregon state fair, I don't know the year, but the book was published in 1993.
1 watermelon rind
1 cup pickling salt
2 quarts cold water
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon allspice
5 pieces cinnamon stick
6 cups sugar
4 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
1 orange thinly sliced
extra cinnamon sticks to place inside the jars for garnish, optional
Trim all dark green and pink from the rind.
Cut the rind into 1 1/2" pieces.
Place 4 quarts of rind in a crock and brine it with the salt disolved in the cold water overnight in the refrigerator.
Drain the rind and rinse well.
Put the rind in a kettle and cover with cold water, bring the pot to the boil and simmer the rind for 8 minutes, drain.
Wash the kettle and add the sugar, water, and vinegar. Make a cheesecloth sachet for the allspice, cloves, and cinnamon and add it to the syrup.
Boil the syrup for about 5 minutes until it begins to thicken, add the rind and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the melon turns opaque, turn off the heat and let the melon cool in the syrup for 1/2 hour.
Meanwhile sterilize the jars and lids, bring the melon back to the boil and pack carefully into pint jars, ladle in extra boiling syrup to cover melon, leaving 1/4" head space at the top. Add a cinnamon stick to the jar if you like.
Place the lids on the jars and secure with rings, process the jars in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes.
Pickles need to rest for about 6 weeks before opening to achieve the best flavor.