After two weeks of Sand Pears in the pick box and me on my own, I decided to preserve them. Sand Pears are also known as Le Conte pears, after the guy who brought them to Georgia and cultivated them, John Eatton Le Conte Jr. His father was the Le Conte who wrote a fascinating, if not entirely accurate, government report on his exploration of the St John’s River and eastern Florida that he undertook in the Spring of 1822.
Bring the vinegar, water, sugar, and honey to a boil. Peal the pears, cut them in halves or quarters and remove the seeds and stem. Distribute the ginger, lemon and cloves evenly between four canning jars (I ended up with two 500ml and two 250ml jars.) add the pears to the jars packing, but not squashing them. Pour in the pickling liquid and tap to remove the bubbles. Close with lids and boil in a water bath for ten minutes and keep for a week before eating. If you prepare the jars and lids correctly, and the seals are tight you can store these outside the fridge.
With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, let’s talk about watermelon.
Watermelon is one of those iconic American foods and the ones we have got from Frog Song Organics every week have been delicious. Often the ones I have bought in the store have been too large and lacking in flavor. You grow bored of their wateriness and the rest rots in the fridge. Not these ones. They aren’t too big and the flavor is sweet, fruity and refreshing. Still, there is a limit to how many watermelon slices you can eat. So here are some others things we have done with them.
Watermelon, Green Bean, and Feta Salad
This was inspired by a recent recipe in the New York Times, which, in an epic librarian fail, I cannot find. Anyway.
A good amount of watermelon, cubed.
8 oz of green beans (we used yard long beans from the garden, but regular green beans would work as well) cut into 2 inch lengths.
2 oz of feta cheese, crumbled.
Sliced almonds (the NYT used pistachios, but I prefer almonds.)
Good olive oil and a little lemon juice.
Very little salt and enough pepper to taste.
With a bowl of iced water to hand, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the beans for 2 to 3 minutes until they turn bright green. Strain the beans and immediately plunge into the iced water. They turn and remain a gorgeous vibrant green that complements the red water melon beautifully. Set aside. Add the cubed watermelon to the salad bowl. Strain the beans and add them. Gently toss with oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Crumble the feta on top and sprinkle with almonds. Serve chilled.
Place two large tumblers filled with ice in the freezer.
In a cocktail shaker add 4 oz of reposada tequila, 1 oz of triple sec, the juice of half a lime, and the cup of watermelon juice. Add a dash of Angostura bitters. Shake. Strain into the tumblers and garnish with a small wedge of watermelon. Some like a salt rim. I don’t.
This recipe is a variation on one Sam introduced me to from John Currence’s Pickles, Pigs, and Whiskey. Strangely, because I have never made watermelon rind pickles before, I peeled the dark green skin from the rind. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but it tastes good. Maybe next time I will try it with the skin.
As you use the watermelon throughout the week, retain the rinds, peel them, or not, and cut them into strips (half an inch by two inches.) place in a bowl of water with a good handful of salt in the fridge. You should end up with about 4 cups of watermelon rinds.
2 cups of sugar.
1 and 1/2 cups of vinegar (Currence calls for Apple cider, I just use distilled.)
2 tsp of mustard seeds.
1 and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.
6 lemon slices.
1 tsp whole cloves.
1 cinnamon stick, crushed.
1 tsp black peppercorns.
Mix the sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds, pepper flakes, and 1 cup of water in a large non-reactive pot. Once simmering, lower the heat. Tie the lemon slices, cloves, cinnamon, and peppercorns in a coffee filter or cheese clothe and place in the pot with developing the syrup. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the strained watermelon rind and bring back to the boil. Remove the spice packet. Ladle the mixture into quart jars, so that the syrup covers the rind. Fill to just below the neck of the jars. Screw on the lids and store in the refrigerator. Let them mature for a week. Currence says they last for 6 to 8 months, but mine get eaten long before that!
These are sweet and sour and pretty spicy, so adjust the spices according to your taste.