This chicken salad recipe is the favorite dish of my sister’s ever brought to a church fellowship. It was her pastor’s wife (now pastor’s mother) who introduced everyone to this fantabulous salad. The only thing is though, in Wyoming there aren’t ever any watermelon pickles available in the stores, so often times she has to substitute bread and butter pickles, although grapes would probably be a better substitute.
Mrs. Adams is from Texas and apparently, they are a southern thing – watermelon pickles, and since I live in Texas now, I was able to find them at Central Market in San Antonio and send them to my sister, who passed them along to Mrs. Adams, so she could make her famous salad the way it was supposed to be made.
But the crazy thing is, I remember, as a kid, my grandmother making watermelon pickles in the summers. She always wanted us to save our rinds for her so she could make a big batch. She always had a jar of them in her fridge – and she’s not southern at all, although my grandpa was, and so maybe that’s where she got the idea. Maybe his mom (or stepmom) made them? Well, at any rate, a few years ago, I decided to try and make them myself, ‘cause San Antonio is a long ways to drive for a jar of pickles. As far as recipes, all I had was a Ball Blue Book for inspiration, and after trying both types that they had listed, I realized that neither of them remotely resembled the taste or gooey consistency of the ones my grandma used to make.
Then, a few weeks ago, on one of my many visits to Facebook, I saw Brenda Gantt had posted a video of herself making them, and after watching, I decided hers looked a whole lot like the ones my grandma made, very thick and gooey and sticky. So, I thought I’d try her method out and see if it was a match.
Now, if you aren’t familiar with who Brenda Gantt (#BrendaGantt) is, well, let me just say she is this most darling little ol’ cooking grandma lady from Andalusia Alabama who ever put videos on Facebook. They are down-to-earth and practical, charmingly unprofessional, and downright homey. Shot by her using a little ol’ cell phone, in her very user friendly, fully equipped, but dare I say, a little bit old school kitchen, where friends and grandchildren frequently make an appearance. Sometimes Brenda is all done up, make-up on, hair done, cute outfit, and other times she is in her housedress with no makeup and hair going every which way or stuffed under a ball cap. She is a popular lady with lots of friends and a loving grandma and mother. She is a patriotic and Christian lady who shares her faith and love of country often, and has the most adorable personality. She is a widow and retired school teacher, and has a little Bed and Breakfast that she operates called Cottle House. She is so beloved that her videos often get pirated and posted to You Tube (without her permission), but perhaps you have seen her there? Below is the link to the little video she did of the watermelon pickles, which I hope you’ll go and watch here. If you have a cell phone you can aim your camera at this QR code and then click on the link that will pop up on your screen. It will take you right to the video.
This summer I have had such a craving for watermelon, and because of the abundance of watermelon rinds, I decided I would give Brenda’s recipe a whirl. Let me tell you, it turned out exactly like my grandmother’s recipe, except my grandma’s had whole cloves in hers. I thought they might be even better if they were spicy, so I added some garden jalapenos along with a lemon and a few spices just to see how they would turn out. Weeee doggies, they are my absolute new favorite!!!!! I love them soooooo much that I have made two whole watermelons worth now. They make the chicken salad even better than it already was, if I may say so myself. 😉
I made a little video capture collage from Brenda’s video. I thought it might be helpful to aid in the instructions for my watermelon pickles. As you can see, it took her a couple of days to put this one together, sometimes she is fixed up and sometimes not, and if you watch the video you will get to meet one of her beautiful granddaughters and a prankster grandson.
MrsH’s Spicy Watermelon Rind Pickles
INSTRUCTIONS: (numbers correspond to the numbered sections of the Brenda collage above)
1. Cut watermelon in half. Scoop out the red part
2. Cut the rind into strips about an inch wide
3. Cut the green skin off each piece of rind
4. Cut the rind into bite-size pieces
5. Once the rind is all cut up you should have a pretty good pot full. I actually transferred my rinds into a large ceramic bowl to set overnight instead of leaving them in the metal pot.
6. Cover the rind pieces with sugar (do not stir). Use regular, white, granulated sugar.
7. Make sure the sugar covers every piece. Let the rinds sit, uncovered, on the counter for 8 hours or overnight (do not stir). The next morning you will see that the sugar has leached the liquid out of the rinds and has formed a sort of wet crust on top.
8. Pour the liquid and rinds into a large pot and bring to a boil on the stove. (I added about a dozen small, really spicy jalapenos from my garden (stems removed, chopped up), plus one lemon sliced, two cinnamon sticks, and about a heaping tablespoon of Ball Pickling Spice – which I added to a reusable tea bag, and let it all cook together on a medium boil for about 2 hours or so.
It will cook down quite a bit. The rinds need to cook until they are translucent. Sometimes it is hard to tell if they are translucent while they are boiling, so I remove a piece from the pot and let it cool to see. Once the pickles are translucent, they are ready to be jarred, but in the meantime, while the rinds are still cooking, it’s a perfect time to get the your jars ready.
Get a few clean jars with lids and place them in a pot of water. *I used old olive jars that I had saved, and their lids, and to my utter amazement they actually sealed when they cooled.
To prepare the jars, bring water to a boil in a large pot on the stove and keep it at a simmer. Let the jars and lids simmer together while the pickles finish cooking, until you are ready to use them. Use tongs to take one jar at a time out of the boiling water, tip it upside down to drain it well, and then place it upright on a towel near the pot of pickles.
9. Use a canning funnel and ladle to fill the jars with pickles. Fill the jars almost to the rim, but leave about a half inch of headspace. Clean the rim of the jars with a clean, wet paper towel so that there is nothing sticky or any pieces of pickle on it. This will ensure that the lid seals properly so no oxygen gets inside to spoil the contents.
10. Using tongs, take a lid from the boiling water, tap off the water, and place the lid on the jar. Screw the lid on hand tight. Set the jars back away from the heat, or on a wire rack, and allow them to cool until the lids seal.
Since these pickles are not being water-bath canned, and because I used previously used lids instead of brand new canning lids and rings, it is safest to keep the pickles in the refrigerator. If you would like to make some that are guaranteed safe for long term storage, here is the Ball Blue Book recipe:
I would recommend using Brenda’s pickles within a month, which is no problem when the goal for making them is to also make Mrs. Adams’ Chicken Salad (recipe below). These pickles are so delicious just to snack on, as you would any other type of pickled veggies. They are sweet and spicy and I can’t wait for you to try them. Brenda says that she first tried these as preserves spread on a buttered biscuit, accompanying a steak dinner she and her husband dined out on at a restaurant. I tried them that way and they are delicious. My grandmother always had them around as a side for meals and snacks. She always added whole cloves to hers while they were cooking, along with cinnamon sticks. I like the Ball pickling spices, it has all the spices in it. And the cinnamon stick, jalapeno, and lemon rind just makes them perfect.
Mrs. Adams’ Crunchy Turkey/Chicken Salad
Original recipe courtesy of the Ladies of Grace Bible Baptist church (Casper, Wyoming), Favorite Recipes cookbook, published 2002 by Morris Press Cookbooks. I modified her recipe slightly to avoid any copyright liabilities.
4 cups cooked turkey or chicken, pulled and chopped into bite-size pieces
1½ cups chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped green onion
1 (20-oz) jar of watermelon rind pickles, drained (if liquidy) and chopped
1 (5-oz) bag slivered almonds
1½ to 2 cups Mayonnaise, as preferred
The juice of 1 lemon (or a Tablespoon of bottled lemon juice)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ teaspoons salt, or more to taste
2 Tablespoons Curry Powder (I used Hot Madras), more or less to taste
2 cups Chow Mein Noodles (wait to add until just before serving)
Toss turkey/chicken with the next 4 ingredients until well incorporated. Mix the mayo, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and curry powder together and pour over chicken. Mix well. Add more mayo if a creamier texture is desired. Add more salt, pepper, curry powder – if more is desired. Cover tightly and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Stir in chow mein noodles just before serving. Great dish to bring to a church pot luck, Bowling pot luck, Bunco night, cards, dominoes, or other game night get-togethers. If you are a grandma and live in the same town as your kids and grandkids, take a batch over to them to be a blessing after a long day at work. Can be made up to 12 hours before serving. Add the chow mein noodles just before serving.
“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Matthew 6:11-12