Day Two - How Much Longer?! Are We There Yet?

Day Two - How Much Longer?! Are We There Yet?

Today's post will be like a book for toddlers....lots of pictures and not many words. Maybe-but you know me...maybe not (probably not). I'm too tired to even try to be funny but not before one quickie. I learned something I should have know a long time ago - size does matter. Small cuts of watermelon rind ended up being mushy after they were cooked and I was the designated fisherman to get them out of the pot o' pickles before they were placed and sealed into jars. Anyway, as you can see above, we finally finished the job and the watermelon rind pickles look exactly like they're supposed to but they were so damn much trouble to make, I'm not sure they'll ever taste as good as the ones Mother made. A jar is in the frig, tomorrow we taste test them and I'm a little scared. We've tasted the hot pickles and they were good but I always eat them cold so that will be the final test. When I started unpacking the jars first thing this morning, all I could think about is what I used to say to my parents when we were on long road trips, "How much longer"? What I know now is that as I was unpacking these jars we still had a long, long way to go. Where ever there was, we weren't even close.

Here's what the jars looked like when they arrived from Amazon, all innocent and tightly packed. Who knew we had to unpack them, place them onto cookie sheets (but not too closely together), we had to heat them in the oven (one can't put hot pickle juice into a cold glass jar) and we had to boil water to put the tops in for sterilization . Once the pickles were ready, the pickles and juice were placed in the jar, the rim carefully wiped, the lid removed from the boiling water and placed on the jar, the lid screwed on but not too tightly and then it was placed on a table to wait until the top pops. Once we heard the magical pop the process was over and the pickles could be stored for years. It took my brother, sister and me 2 1/2 hours of working constantly to get this all done but it seemed like years. But before all of that happened.....

First we had to wash the lime off of the cut up rinds and we did this process several times. Who wants limey pickles? Reading glasses aren't just for reading when you get to a certain age, like 59, with gratitude to the photographer who cut my bald spot out of the picture. Someone's going to be treated to dinner tonight.

After washing the lime off the rinds, the first cooking step for the day is boiling the rinds in cracked ginger for an hour. Since we had 4 pots going and each started at a different time, it was easy to see the rinds change to different shades of golden yellow as the hour passed. At the end of the hour, it looked like the pot was full of pineapple chunks rather than watermelon rinds. As for seeing yours truly in two pictures back to back? Lou felt like she was over-photographed yesterday and insisted on taking my picture at every turn Friday morning so I tried to be a good sport. Turn about is fair play and our mother loves pictures so who am I to argue? My bald spot again is magically erased by good camera angles and I'm happy about that but I could have sucked the gut in a little more. File that under one more thing to remember for future photos.....

After that step, the ginger water is discarded and the rinds are boiled in sugar, vinegar and pickling spices. At this stage, the watermelon pickles are starting to turn a translucent, glossy brown and smell wonderful-just like I remember our house on Watson Drive smelling when I'd walk in and Mom and Anne Brunson were making their pickles. We're heading down the home stretch. Kinda/sorta. Not really.

Help has arrived-Johnny has joined us for the final lap to get the watermelon rind pickles in the jars and sealed, in itself a very long, laborious task.....three hours to be exact.

Here is the Watermelon Rind Pickle recipe from the Tall Tales and Hackney Family Cookbook I put together for family and friends. Anne Brunson gave me the recipe and we did it exactly as it's written but it's a much more difficult and complicated task than I realized. My sister the chef knew a lot of the steps that I wouldn't have known to do (for example how to seal the jars correctly). Also, you'll notice Lou's uneaten shrimp lunch that Robert picked up at 1:30 pm. which sat on the table uneaten until 4:45 when she finally had time to eat it cold (tired, brave, hungry girl). We never had time to stop and eat lunch because once the pickles are done and ready to be canned and sealed, there's no stopping to have lunch.

Lou and Johnny finish up the last few jars of pickles. Are you wondering if this post is ever going to end? Now you know how WE felt about making pickles.

All finished. We're there. Finally. Eureka! One year of planning. A huge watermelon grown by great friends. Two days of hard work by three siblings and one son and nephew and we've done the impossible. We've recreated Mother's Watermelon Rind Pickle Recipe. Incredible.

Wrong! We weren't done at all. Half of the jars didn't seal correctly so after a quick one hour nap, Lou and Robert broke out a bottle of wine and the steamer to get the jars correctly sealed. It worked and all the jars sealed correctly. Now we're really finally finished with making Mom's watermelon rind pickles. Time to celebrate with dinner at a local hot spot.

So if you feel like you've invested a lot of your time to read this post, just think how we feel about the time we've invested to make the pickles. It's remarkable the amount of work that can be done with a fantastic family, a lot of love, some hard work, an old fashioned recipe, great equipment and a good bottle of wine. So we've been full circle once again. Our celebration dinner was at (where else?) Full Circle Café on the Morehead City waterfront. We were too tired to take pictures of ourselves (or suck in our stomachs) during dinner but not too tired to share pictures of our two day pickling-arama with the folks at the restaurant. They asked us what a jar of the pickles would be worth.

What are they worth? I thought about all the time and work that went into each jar and I realized that each jar of pickles is like a jar of 24k gold nuggets. There's not a price I could put on them because no one could pay enough to cover the cost of our time for making them. It's truly a labor of love. Now I understand why Mother would take her leftover homemade pickles out of pickle dish (and maybe even from a dinner plate if a pickle was untouched) and put them right back into the jar to be served another day. No one throws out a 24k gold nugget.

To my family who will be served these pickles: please don't ever waste them. To my friends who may be given them: please enjoy them and make a big fuss over them. And to anyone who wants to buy a jar? With a little more thought, maybe I can think of a price - a $100 per jar donation to Imagination Station Science Museum in Wilson. I'll hand deliver the jar to your door within a 100 mile radius of Wilson or Atlantic Beach. That's a deal based on what we've done over the past 2 days and you can help a wonderful place that's near and dear to my heart. However, if you're frugal and decide to buy them at the hardware store (or in Wilson at Deans Farm), tell them what a great value their pickles are. Ohhhh and ahhhh over them. Stroke the jar a little. You may even want to add a tip to the price they charge. Trust me, whatever it is, it's a deal.

I've been full circle again. In life. With my family. With friends. With an old family recipe. Just pickles to some. Southern gold to us. Aren't they beautiful? Honestly, they're magical. And we're finally there. Wow.


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