What to do with watermelon rind or peel? Aromatic and sweet watermelon rind jam or candied watermelon rind.
After making Homemade Blueberry Sauce, Low-Sugar Apricots in Jars, Simple Apricot Jam, Homemade Creme de Cassis or Black Currant Liquor and many others, I finally got to making some delicious Watermelon Rind Jam or Candied Watermelon Rind in Syrup.
OK, I am sure you will not make watermelon rind jam out of all the watermelons you get to eat in the summer, but taking the time to do this at least once or twice, it’s really worth it. You will love these sweet, jewel-like pieces of watermelon rind, you will probably not be able to eat half a jar in one go, but you will be delighted with a moderate amount of it on your toast or just being able to pop a small piece of candied watermelon rind in your mouth whenever you crave something sweet. One piece of candied watermelon rind and you will forget about chocolate or gummy bears or candy or whatever sweets you normally cannot resist. At least it works for me, but I was never much into chocolate, gummy bears or candy… 🙂
This is probably the best time of the year to eat lots of watermelons and make some watermelon jam with those leftover rinds that fill up your bin. I remember my grandmother coming home in summer with a large watermelon, putting it in the fridge and us eating it ice cold on the next day, huge slices looking like a smiley with bad teeth, black seeds which we would spit on a large plate, juice running down our arms, that fresh feeling in the mouth and throat during those long hot summer days.
And I remember the mountains and mountains of watermelons at the market, the sellers inviting you to chose one from the heap, then slicing a triangle out of the watermelon, thrusting the long rusty knife into the triangle and offering it to you to try. If you didn’t like it, you would chose another watermelon and he would repeat the procedure until you found one that was just as sweet as you wanted it.
But to tell you the truth, I rarely had to turn down the first watermelon I tried, they are all so good, ripened in the sun, juicy and sweet, there is nothing you could find fault with. But I remember my grandmother turning down quite a few watermelons in her time… I was always so embarrassed and walked away… 🙂
How to make Watermelon Rind Jam or Candied Watermelon Rind?
Well, the process is easy but it involves a few steps and a bit of chopping. But like I’ve said it before, it is well worth it! The result will be a jam the likes of you probably never had before, unless you’re Romanian and grew up on a thing called “dulceata”, which is some kind of jam, but quite different from the regular jam you are used to, the kind of jam we make heaps of in Romania as well. I think you will love those rather firm watermelon rind pieces surrounded by that sweet and heavy syrup.
Dulceata or “sweetness” is a kind of preserve made with whole fruits (in this case the chopped watermelon rind) boiled in a lot of sugar, normally on a 1:1 ratio, until the liquid becomes a clear syrup surrounding those glossy fruit or fruit pieces. As dulceata is way sweeter than regular jam, you will only need a small amount of it on your buttered toast, for instance. And the fruit can be used not only to eat as it is, but to put into cakes, to stir into desserts and so on.
I remember reading about a traditional way of eating dulceata a long time ago in Romania. I don’t even remember in which book I have read about that (for those Romanian people out there – it might have been Caragiale, but I would not swear it), but a long time ago people used to serve their guests a small bowl of dulceata and some really cold water when they came to visit. I still have the image in my mind, a rich household from the 19th century, with gorgeous sofas, armchairs and carpets and people sitting around a low, small table eating dulceata out of small bowls, drinking ice cold water and chatting politely. 🙂
But back to the jam or candied watermelon rind, I kind of lost it here…
You start by cleaning and chopping the rind. Make sure to leave a tiny amount of red watermelon flesh attached to the rind pieces you want to use for the jam. It makes things prettier, however you don’t want to leave too much of it attached, I would say about 2 mm/ 0.08 inches. Then you will have to remove the green skin as well and chop the rind as evenly as possible.
First you will have to cook the rind pieces in water and vinegar, this step takes about an hour, but it is a necessary step. The vinegar will help the watermelon rind pieces hold their shape and not get soggy. After cooking the watermelon rind in vinegar, you will have to drain and weigh them and add just as much sugar as the rind weighs, so 1 to 1 ratio.
The most difficult thing for me when making dulceata is finding the perfect time to stop the cooking process. If the jam is cooked too shortly, the syrup will not form properly and the jam will be runny. If you overcook the jam, the syrup will taste too much like caramel and become too hard, I had to throw away a whole batch of cherry dulceata because I was not even able to stick a spoon in the finished and cooled product…
*However, to make it easier for you, I measured the cooking time exactly and considering you will follow the instructions and use a pot that has roughly the same size as mine, you should be able to stop the cooking process at the right time. I used a soup pot with a diameter of 23 cm/ 9 inches and a height of 14 cm/ 5.5 inches. Of course, I don’t expect you to have the exact same pot or to buy one extra for this, but a similar sized one will help you with keeping the indicated cooking time better. If your pot is wider, start checking if the syrup is formed before the indicated time is over, if your pot is narrower it might take a bit longer. The syrup should have more of less the consistency of runny clear honey.
The source of this recipe is Silvia Jurcovan’s Cookbook. I only made half a batch and got 2 ½ small jars. For information on sterilizing jars for preserves, have a look at this post.
By the way, the next two weeks on Where is My Spoon will be dedicated to preserving. More on that on Monday.
- 750 – 850 g/ 26.5 – 30 oz watermelon rind, weighed after preparing it
- sugar, about 500 g/ 17.6 oz
- 1 liter/ 34 oz/ 4.2 cups water
- 150 ml/ 5 oz/ 2/3 cup white wine vinegar
- the juice of 1 lemon
Remove the red flesh of the watermelon, leaving only one very thin layer of red flesh attached to the rind, about 2 mm/ 0.08 inches. Remove the green skin of the watermelon completely.
Chop the watermelon rind into even pieces of about 3-4 cm/ 1.2-1.6 inches. You should weigh the watermelon rind now and prepare more if necessary.
Place 1 liter/ 34 oz/ 4.2 cups water and the vinegar in a pot with the diameter of approximately 23 cm/ 9 inches and a height of 14 cm/ 5.5 inches (*See the marked paragraph above). Bring to a boil, add the watermelon rind and let cook for about an hour or a bit more until the rind pieces are glossy and somehow transparent.
Drain in a sieve, refresh with cold water and, when cool enough to handle, press with your hand to remove more of the excess water.
Weigh the watermelon rind again. You should have more or less 500 g/ 17.6 oz cooked rind. Set aside.
Measure the sugar, you should take the same amount of sugar as you have of cooked watermelon rind, so about 500 g/ 17.6 oz.
Place the sugar in the rinsed pot you used before. Add 250 ml/ 8.5 oz/ 1 cup water to the sugar and turn on the heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. When the syrup comes to a boil, add the watermelon rind and the lemon juice.
Cook until a light syrup forms, it took me exactly 38 minutes, but like I have mentioned above, the cooking time depends on the size of the pot as well. If your pot has a similar size the time should be OK, if your pot is wider the cooking time will probably be shorter, if your pot is narrower the cooking time will probably with be a bit longer. The finished syrup should be light in color and have more or less the consistency of clear runny honey.
Give the jam to the sterilized jars and seal well. Keep in a dark cool place. If the jars are sterilized and well sealed the jam should be good for a very long time.
For more info on sterilizing jars, have a look here.
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