I know summer is winding up, but you should really go get yourself one last watermelon, if only for the rind.
I did not grow up eating watermelon rind pickles, but a yellowed newspaper clipping lodged among my great-aunt Marnie’s recipes spurred me to give them a try.
Watermelon rind pickles are the ultimate in thrifty — made from the part of the melon that is usually discarded anyway.
This summer, we’ve been giving our watermelon rinds to the chickens for a cool and refreshing treat on super hot days, so they really weren’t going to waste, but I decided to set aside some rind for pickling purposes too and I’m so glad that I did.
These are sweet pickles but not cloyingly so, thanks to the large amount of vinegar used, and they are fragrant with warm winter spices. I am planning to hoard most of mine until later in the year when I think they will make a nice, bright counterpoint to stodgy cold-weather food.
In the end, I didn’t use the old newspaper recipe because it didn’t hold up to modern food safety recommendations. Instead, I followed a recipe from the Ball canning website that turned out to be remarkably good. In retrospect, I think the older recipe might have tasted too sweet to me. It called for slightly more sugar and less than half as much vinegar as the Ball recipe.
Marnie’s recipe also called for adding green food coloring to the mix, but the bite-sized pieces of rind are pretty enough on their own, suspended in amber pickling liquid.
Making watermelon rind pickles is easy, although it does require a little bit of planning because the rind needs to soak in brine overnight. The pay off is worth it.
I’m already hoarding pieces of rind for a second batch.
Adapted from the Ball website.
To prepare watermelon rind, trim away red flesh, then use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer peel. Cut rind into 2- x 1-inch slices. I prepared a little rind at a time, every time we ate watermelon, and stashed it in a bag in the refrigerator for a couple of days until I had enough to make pickles.
- 16 cups sliced, peeled, watermelon rind (from one large or two medium-sized watermelon)
- 1 cup salt
- 8 cups cool water, divided
- 6 cups granulated sugar
- 4 cups distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 5 pieces star anise
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- glass canning jars with bands and new lids
Place the watermelon rind in a large, non-reactive pot (I used my enameled Dutch oven). Add the salt and 4 cups of water. Stir until the salt is dissolved. The watermelon rind should be completely covered with brine. If necessary, use an inverted plate to keep the watermelon submerged. Cover and set aside for at least four hours or overnight.
Drain the rind and rinse thoroughly, until the water runs clear. Return the rind to the pot, add the remaining 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until fork tender, about 5-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Using the same pot in which you cooked the watermelon, combine the sugar, vinegar and spices. (I left my spices loose and packed them into the canning jars with the pickles. If you do not want to do this you can also tie them into a cheesecloth bundle for easy removal.)
Bring the pickling liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Add the pieces of watermelon rind to the pickling liquid and return to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour, until rind becomes translucent.
Pack rind and pickling liquid into clean jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.