Christmas in August: Pickled Watermelon Rind

Ed Note: Our friend Julia, canning lover and far mar worker, is back to rant about a newly acquired, and blogger-inspired, cookbook. Julia’s previously written about roasted rhubarb and Meyer lemon syrup.

Discovering my inner Southern grandmother has opened up my cookbook addiction in a whole new direction: canning and preserving texts now fill my shelves. Apparently many, many others have also become a part of this “canvolution” (not my word – I swear) and so a whole crop of canning books are popping up. As such, it seems that all sorts of canning bloggers are scrambling to write books to cash in on the craze.

For those of us who love cookbooks, but hate to follow recipes, canning presents a unique challenge in that, not following a recipe or procedure to a “t” can result in some really nasty things.  Like death.  From botulism.  Not a pretty way to go.

As a result, every canning book that I have come across lately has – rightly – dedicated a good amount of space to describing the process of canning safety measures and the history of various methods.

The most recent canning book to my collection, WE SURE CAN! How Jams and Pickles Are Reviving the Lure and Lore of Local Food (courtesy of Arsenal Pulp Press) does not break from that format.  In fact, author Sarah B. Hood spends 60ish pages writing about the history of canning…Then the resurgence of canning…Then the people responsible for the resurgence of canning…. Then the way to can…

And then (YAY!) we get two recipes.

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When Life Gives You Lemons…Turn Them into Syrup

Ed. Note: While I sat all morning and ran cards through the ATM, Julia worked her ass off selling Richfield Farms’ fabulous produce at the Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market all summer. I sat; she fielded questions about zucchini. I sat; she made change in her head. I sat; she hulled boxes back on the truck. Of course, she loved every minute of it and has now turned her attention to canning. Here’s her dabble in marmalading.

Despite the ridicule from my friends—all of them Southern with canning-loving grandmothers—dropping mostly not-so-veiled references to me being an 80-year-old Southern grandmother, and my boyfriend just saying I was nuts, I decided to become a canner. Over the summer months I put up dozens of jars of preserves, whole fruit and tomato sauce. Then November hit, the market ended, and I got bored.

Several weeks ago, after a canning lull, I began to feel the itch.  Trader Joe’s had organic meyer lemons – bingo. Now normally I’m not a big freak about organic foods, but with citrus, it’s different. The toxins from any sprayed pesticides are stored in the peel, and so for something like marmalade, which uses the peel, it’s important to start with a non-tainted fruit. Who needs pesticides on top of the always present botulism threat?

Not wanting to squander my precious finds, I did quite a bit of pre-marmalading research on my favorite canning blogs (One Green Generation and Food in Jars) and ended up creating my own recipe based off a few I found. Normally with canning I stick to a specific recipe—again the threat of botulism is scary—but lemons are super acidic, and there’s a lot of sugar, so I felt pretty safe taking a few liberties.

My first marmalade attempt turned out more like a syrup and the taste is fabulous: sweet, tart and acidic with the chewy zest providing a good counter point to the runny liquid.  Next time I’ll trust my instinct and let it cook longer. But I’m loving the new things I can do because of the more liquid texture: a salad dressing with red wine vinegar and a little olive oil; with mustard to marinate chicken; topping for vanilla ice cream; glaze for a cake; and of course, a way to dress up plain yogurt.

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