That which is preserved; fruit, or the like, seasoned and kept by suitable preparation. To preserve is to save from decay by the use of some preservative solution, as sugar, salt, and the like; to season and prepare for preserving; as fruits, meat, &c.; to maintain in a sound state. — Webster, 1882
We started out to make a few calls on the business men of the village, leaving the women folks engrossed in an animated discussion, on such subjects as watermelon preserves, cut in the bias, currant jelly, and others too numerous to mention, and on which we were not very well posted. – Darlington (Wisconsin) Republican, 1881.
In Farmer Boy (Chapter 18, “Keeping House”), Almanzo and Alice pick six of the largest watermelons they could find and put them in the icehouse to get cold. Six watermelons? For four children? That’s what Laura tells us. And when the melons are cold, Royal used the butcher knife to apparently cut up all six melons (they were “so ripe that the rinds split open”). Most likely, the Wilders only ate the “heart” of the melon. Almanzo wanted to give the rinds to Lucy – his pig – but Eliza Jane said she was going to make watermelon preserves.
I thought I had remembered that Eliza Jane made watermelon pickles, but obviously I was wrong. I had a beautiful watermelon today and I wanted to make rind pickles or at least pickled watermelon balls:
10 cups watermelon balls (3 pounds pink meat)
1/2 cup salt
2 quarts cold water
3 lemons sliced
4-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger
Cut balls from pink watermelon with scoop. Soak overnight in mixed salt and water. Drain and rinse in cold water. Add lemons, sugar and ginger. Add enough water to cover the fruit. Cook slowly until clear, about 20 minutes. Place fruit in hot, sterilized jars. Boil syrup until it threads. Pour over fruit and seal jars.
Well, since the watermelon has to soak overnight, tomorrow will be watermelon pickle day. But I found a recipe for watermelon preserves, and it has a shorter soaking time, so that’s what I did this evening:
1-1/2 quarts prepared watermelon rind
4 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup thinly sliced lemon
Trim the green skin and pink meat from watermelon rind and cut into one-inch cubes. Dissolve the salt in 8 cups of water and pour over the rind. Let stand for 5-6 hours. Drain, rinse, and drain again. Cover rind with cold water and let stand for 30 minutes. Sprinkle ginger over the rind, cover with water, and cook until fork tender. Drain.
To make the preserves, combine the sugar, lemon juice and 6 cups water in a large pot. Boil 5 minutes. Add the rind and boil gently for 30 minutes or until syrup thickens. Add sliced lemon and cook until lemon rind is transparent. Pack hot into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch space. Tap jars to remove air bubbles. Adjust caps. Process 20 minutes in boiling water bath. Makes about 6 half pints.
Here are some period recipes:
Watermelon preserves. Take the firm outside rind of the watermelon; scrape off the green and cut out the soft inside; cu the rind into any shapes you choose, stars, crescents, diamonds, etc. After they have been boiled in alum and leaves to green and harden, weigh them and make a syrup of a pound of sugar to a pound of fruit, with a cup of water to each pound. Boil the syrup clear, and put in the cut rinds, and boil them until transparent. Flavor with ginger for green color, and lemons for the yellow. If the rind is wanted yellow you must boil it with fresh lemon skins and a little saffron before preserving it. — Lafcadio Hearn, La Cuisine Creole (New Orleans: F.F. Hansell & Bro., Ltd., 1885), 215.
Watermelon preserves. In a bucket of cold water, put a handful of lime, stir it in, and when it settles clear, pour it over the watermelon rind you intend preserving; let it stay in the weak lime-water one day. Soak it in water a few hours, and get the taste of the lime from the rind, then put it in alum water and scald for ten minutes. Put grape leaves in with the alum while scalding; they will make the rind green. Take the rind from the alum, and put it in cold water for a few hours, and when cold, boil it in strong ginger tea until it is soft, and tastes of the ginger. Make the syrup of one and a half pounds of sugar to each pound of rind, and a half pint of water to each pound of sugar. Let it cook slowly, skim it, and when it looks clear, put in the rind, and let it cook slowly until clear and transparent. The rind should be cut into beautiful shapes, and preserved with care. This is a little trouble, but the housekeeper is amply repaid by the beauty of the preserve. — Lafcadio Hearn, La Cuisine Creole (New Orleans: F.F. Hansell & Bro., Ltd., 1885), 215-216.
Watermelon preserves. Pare off outside green rind, cut in pieces two inches long, weigh, throw into cold water, skim out, add a heaping teaspoon each of salt and pulverized alum to two gallons of rinds, let stand until salt and alum dissolve, fill the kettle with cold water, and place on top of stove where it will slowly come to boiling point, covering with a large place so as to keep rinds under; boil until they can be easily pierced with a fork, drain them from the water, and put into a syrup previously prepared as follows: Bruise and tie in a muslin bag four ounces of ginger root, and boil in two or three pints of water until it is strongly flavored. At the same time boil in a little water until tender, in another pan, three or four sliced lemons; make a syrup of the sugar and the water in which the lemons and the ginger root were boiled, add the rinds and slices of lemon to this, and boil slowly half to three-quarters of an hour. — Estelle Woods Wilcox, Buckeye Cookery, And Practical Housekeeping: Compiled From Original Recipes (Minneapolis: Buckeye Pub. Co., 1877), 218.
watermelon-rind preserves (FB 18)