Remember sitting on the steps spitting seeds out into the yard or braving forks to get the heart first. You were not allowed in the house while eating the sticky mess that crunched in your mouth. Girls were warned that if they swallowed a watermelon seed they would get pregnant though I'm not sure we knew what the word meant at so early age.
Then came food designers whose talented knives and scoops produced lovely baskets filled with melon balls. Okay, they took hours to create and looked pretty on a table, but somehow they didn't taste as good as a slice or quarter sprinkled with salt that you sunk your teeth into and smeared all over your face while the juice ran down your chin.
Today I wouldn't be surprised to see "blue" melons in the grocery as so many changes have evolved in the production of a favorite fruit since it was long with green strips or round with a dark green skin. Today's kids don't experience the joy of having the first one of the season from the garden and that's a shame.
A southern treat are watermelon rind pickles served with pork chops or fried chicken in the dead of winter. Their spicy taste brings back memories of hot summer afternoons. My dad loved them and my mother could think of numerous reasons not to make them. I discovered when I made them why she avoided the project. The rind is hard to peel and it takes skill not to slice your hand.
This is my grandmother Black's recipe and has been in our family for over 100 years. Gran grew up in Mississippi and moved to Dawson Springs, KY as a young bride with small children in 1909.
Watermelon Rind Pickles
1/2 large watermelon
1/2 cup of salt
4 cups cold water
5 cups sugar
3 cups vinegar
2 thin lemon slices
2 then lime slices
5 pieces stick cinnamon
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon whole all-spice
Collect rinds. Peel off the skin and discard. Cut rind into cubes. Combine with salt and four cups cold water. Cover bowl and soak overnight.
Drain melon rind & cover with fresh water in a large stainless steel kettle or enamel ware with no chips. Heat to boiling.
Simmer until tender (15 minutes), drain and set aside.
Combine sugar, vinegar, lemon, & lime in same kettle. Tie spices in a piece of cheese cloth. Add to the kettle.
Heat to boiling over medium heat (20 minutes) or until thickened and syrupy.
Add rind, a cup at a time. Slowly simmer until rind is clear and glossy (20 minutes).
Remove spice bag. Ladle into hot sterilized jars, cover with syrup, and seal. I use a hot water bath for 20 minutes or until the lids pop. Makes 7 to 8 1/2 pints.