When September rolls around with its cool mornings, I start looking for ways to bottle up summer – to keep it around a little longer. Watermelon evokes summer; a slice of fruit with the red juice running down your forearms is the perfect dessert after a barbecue. When a friend recently brought pickled watermelon rinds to a party, I knew that the recipe would be another way to extend the season’s flavors (check out basil butter and oven dried sage and lavender).
Buying a whole watermelon is economical (see cocktail and granita), and now the whole fruit including the rind can be utilized. Pickling the rind creates instant gratification, as the pickled rinds are ready to eat in about 12 hours. The ingredients are commonplace items that are usually available in a well-stocked pantry. The process of combining the pickling spices (cloves, peppercorns, allspice, and cinnamon), aromatics (fresh ginger and lemon) with the pickling liquid of sugar-water-vinegar mix requires little effort. Pickling is more of an art form, and the ingredients can be varied according to your preferences. However, the pickling liquid has to be sufficiently acidic with enough of the liquid covering the rinds to prevent any mold growth.
Serve the pickled rinds as an accompaniment to burgers and hot dogs or as a side dish alongside hummus and olives.
Pickled Watermelon Rinds
Watermelon – 4 cups (about half of a medium-sized watermelon)
Water – 4 cups
Vinegar (plain or apple cider vinegar) – 3½ cups
Salt – 1½ tbsp
Sugar – ¾ cup
Whole cloves – 4-5
Peppercorns – 4-5
Whole Allspice – 4-5
Whole cinnamon stick – 1
Ginger – 6-7 slices
Lemon – 1, sliced
- Cut the red flesh away from the rind, leaving behind just ¼-inch of the flesh close to the rind. Use the fruit to make granita or salad.
- Peel the hard dark green, striped rind with a good strong peeler. Once the striped green rind has been peeled away and discarded, the paler green rind below is easy to remove. Scrape down until you have 1½-inch layer of the pale green rind left.
- Cut the peeled rind into smaller cubes or slivers. Keep aside.
- Boil 3½ cups of water. Add the salt to the boiling water.
- Add the cut rinds to the boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes, until the rinds have softened. Remove and drain. Rinse the rinds with fresh water. Place the rinds in a fresh metal pan.
- Meanwhile, mix the sugar with the vinegar and ½ cup of water until the sugar has dissolved. Heat the mixture.
- Add cloves, peppercorns, allspice, cinnamon, and lemon and ginger slices. Boil the mixture for about 8 minutes.
- Pour the vinegar mixture over the watermelon rinds. Place a plate (or weights) on the rinds to keep all of the rinds submerged in the pickling liquid. Cover.
- Once the mixture has cooled, keep the pan in the refrigerator.
- The pickled watermelon rinds are ready after 12 hours.
- Pour the rinds and vinegar solution into a sterilized mason jar to store, making sure the rinds are submerged in the pickling liquid. Pickled watermelon rinds keep in the refrigerator for a week and longer.