Much of the many baskets of summer produce my dad brought home from the local farmers markets or from our own huge garden ended up being canned, frozen or made into pickles, preserves or jellies. My mother thought him mad when on a whim one year, he planted two acres of watermelon and cantaloupe. Think of the size of an American football field which is just shy of one acre and you have some idea of how massive this plot of land was. Imagine driving down this little country road and as you topped the hill, there before you was a field dotted with thousands of green striped watermelons and gray green cantaloupes? He invited any and everyone to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Needless to say, there was also more than enough melons for us to eat.
Not one to waste food, my mother made watermelon rind preserves from some of the watermelons we enjoyed telling us that the preserves would be good with our Thanksgiving turkey or with biscuits for breakfast. The task was laborious, involving overnight soakings in a brine and shaving all the watermelon flesh off the rind. As a child, I thought watermelon rind preserves were too sweet and weird looking. My mother passed away a year ago this past month and I find myself now making many of the foods that she made when I was a child. She would love this easy recipe I found in Matt and Ted Lee's book, The Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook. No soaking and time-consuming scraping all the flesh off the melon. In fact, leaving some of the beautiful pink flesh on the rind creates a jewel-like effect on the finished preserves.
A 6-1/2 pound slice of watermelon makes 8 cups of chopped watermelon rind, enough for 2 pints of watermelon rind preserves. If you like, you can buy a seedless watermelon. I love the old-fashioned seeded melons as they seem to me to have better flavor. Serve these on Angel biscuits-a raised biscuit dough made in the bread machine-recipe follows the watermelon rind preserves recipe.
Watermelon Rind Preserves
8 cups diced watermelon rind-pink flesh removed and thick green skin peeled and discarded
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 strips lemon peel, about 4 inches long
1 cup water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
2 pint size wide mouth jars with lids and rims, washed and sterilized in boiling water.
In a large pot, combine diced watermelon rind, lemon juice, lemon peel water, sugar and ginger. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring ingredients to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered over medium low heat for about 1 hour or until rind is translucent.
With a slotted spoon, remove the rind from the syrup and place in the jars. Increase the heat and boil the syrup for 10 minutes to thicken. Using a funnel, pour syrup into the jars up to 1/2 inch from the rim. Place the lids on the jars, seal and set aside to cool. Place in refrigerator for 2 days before serving. Keeps for about 4 weeks refrigerated. Leftover syrup can be bottled and refrigerated for about the same time. Use to sweeten beverages and cocktails.
Angel Biscuits-Bread Machine Version
2 cups warm water (110-115°F)
6 tablespoon buttermilk powder (available at most large grocery stores)
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
5 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2-1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
Add ingredients to bread machine pan according to manufacturer's instructions. Process on the dough cycle, taking care to monitor the machine's progress in the first few minutes to ensure the ingredients are mixed together well. When cycle has completed, remove dough from machine and place in a zip type plastic bag which has been coated with oil or a non-stick cooking spray. Refrigerate until ready to bake. When ready to bake biscuits, remove desired amount of dough from plastic bag about 2 hours before serving. Store unused dough in refrigerator. Roll dough out on lightly floured surface about 1/2-inch thick. Cut into shapes. Place on un-greased baking sheet, cover and let rise until doubled in size. Bake at 425°F for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Unused dough keeps well for several days in refrigerator. Makes about 3 dozen biscuits.