Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Common Threads, Labor and Watermelon Rind Preserves

Chai Spiced Watermelon Rind Preserves with quilting fabric

Waxahachie, TX

Labor Day last week was one of those early fall days when the sunshine sparkles and the wind cools. I spent it in Waxahachie, Texas, a charming small town just south of Dallas.

Downtown Waxahachie’s century old buildings house shops and restaurants. Just outside the town square is Common Threads Quilting, a store specializing in nineteenth century reproduction fabric.  I went to pick up some quilting supplies to make my first quilt.

Being in the play, Quilters, has made me think about how our great grandmothers lived. Their greatest capital was hard work. They took scraps of scraps and turned them into practical artistry.

Watermelon rind preserves are like that too. The pale green rind we throw away today was a treasure to our ancestors. Virtually tasteless, watermelon rind absorbs the flavor in which it is cooked. It becomes a blank canvas for creativity.

Last year, I won a ribbon at the State Fair of Texas for Watermelon Rind Preserves. Long a holiday tradition in our family, the recipe has been handed down for at least three generations. They were special because we knew how much labor was involved in the making. Watermelon rind preserves are tempting on ice cream, on freshly baked biscuits or straight from the jar.

I just won another ribbon for these preserves. This year, I made Chai Spiced Watermelon Rind Preserves. Chai spice blend is hard to describe, but never forgotten. The blend of cinnamon, ginger, fennel, cloves and cardamom is both exotic and familiar. 

After visiting the quilt shop, I took a stroll through Getzendaner Memorial Park. I brought a jar of preserves, hoping to find the right spot to photograph them.  A log had fallen conveniently into a ray of sunshine.  Perfect!

Fabric scraps, watermelon rind and a fallen dead log. Buried within all these seemingly worthless discards lies buried treasure. Labor is the key to unlock their practical artistry.  

Chai Spiced Watermelon Rind Preserves

Rind of watermelon

For each pound rind:
1 cup water
1 pound sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
12 whole cloves, (or enough for two per jar)
6 green cardamon pods (or enough for one per jar)
6 cinnamon sticks (or enough for one per jar)
6 thin slices ginger, (or enough for one per jar)
6 black peppercorns, (or enough for one per jar)

Remove soft flesh and dark green skin from watermelon.  Chop watermelon rind into cubes. (One-half to one inch. Depending on your preference.)

Weigh rind.  Soak rind in alum water, using 2 teaspoons alum to one-quart water. Make enough alum water to cover rind. Soak one hour. 

Drain, cover in ice water. Soak another hour. Drain.

Place in large pot. Cover with fresh water. Boil 1½ hours. Drain again.

Place required amount of sugar and water in clean pot.  Cook 5 minutes to make a syrup.

Add melon rind, and cook until tender.  Add vanilla extract.

Pack into sterilized jars. Divide spices evenly among jars.  Process in hot water bath, 10 minutes for ½ pints, 15 minutes for pints.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Oven Has A 'Tude

After searching for over a YEAR, I finally found a replacement coil for my oven!!! My very, very favoritest electrician, Chris Martinez, just installed it!! Woot! Woot!! Yeah, that's right. My oven is making a cool dude face cuz Mr. Oven is so hot! I see the future and there are cookies in it!!!