How to Preserve Watermelon

This warm-weather fruit doesn’t have to be just a summer treat. You can stretch watermelon season in a number of ways, including via dehydrating, pickling and making fruit preserves.

  • Watermelon
    Watermelon makes a tasty treat at any picnic — and year-round!
    Photo by the MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff
  • Watermelon
    Ever thought to yourself — whilst chomping on a cool, crisp slab of watermelon — that it’s a shame this fruit is with us for only a brief spell? We sure have. Enter these easy, can-be-enjoyed-on-a-frigid-January-evening recipes for dehydrated watermelon, watermelon wine, watermelon rind pickles and more.
    Photo by Fotolia

  • Watermelon
  • Watermelon

Few fruits receive — or deserve — as much praise as the watermelon. Yet, despite having been cultivated for more than 4,000 years, this delightful member of the cucumber family is usually enjoyed for only a few brief weeks in the summer because most people don’t know how to preserve it.

Watermelon Pickles and Preserves

The most common way of keeping the big fruits is in the form of watermelon rind pickles or preserves. To make these sweet treats, first cut the pale-colored inner rind into 1-inch cubes and soak overnight in a solution of 4 tablespoons of salt per quart of water. The next day, drain off the liquid and cook the rind until tender.

Then, if pickles are your goal, make a syrup of 8 cups of sugar, 4 cups of vinegar, 8 teaspoons of whole cloves, 12 cinnamon sticks and a pinch of mustard seed. Boil the mixture, allow it to sit for 15 minutes, add the watermelon rind, and cook until the cubes become transparent and delicious.

Preserves are made in much the same way. Prepare the rind as before: Soak it overnight, cook it until tender and drain. Then make a syrup of 9 cups of sugar, 8 cups of water, 2 sliced lemons and 4 sticks of cinnamon. (Add whole cloves to the syrup if you like.) Boil the syrup for 5 minutes, add the melon cubes, and then cook until they’re clear.

Pour the pickles or preserves into clean, sterile jars and seal. (I don’t know how well these recipes could be modified to use less — or a less processed — sweetener. Maybe some other readers will write in to share their experiences.)

Dehydrated Watermelon

As delicious as the above condiments are, it’s the naturally sweet, red “meat” of the melon that most people miss in winter. Yet few devoted watermelon lovers know that this summer favorite can be dried for off-season treats — and, in many cases, it’s even more delicious when dehydrated than it is when freshly cut. In fact, a watermelon that’s barely palatable when fresh can be stunningly delectable when dried, because the process removes the water and concentrates the sugar content and flavor. Therefore, if you cut a melon and find that it’s not quite sweet enough — or that it’s slightly overripe — dry it! (The same applies to other melons, such as honeydew and cantaloupe.) You can also feel perfectly justified in eating the heart out of a melon and drying the rest, because the substandard meat will be as tasty dried as the heart was fresh.

Tanya Parker
8/17/2020 6:52:06 PM

Great 👍🏾 ideas 💡 and suggestions. I have watermelon 🍉 harvesting around the same time and have to figure out how that will work.

Luara Blauth
7/30/2014 11:55:47 PM

I loved those ideas! But I live in tropical weather (and yes, liked the idea anyway - specially the rind stuff and the wine. So I was wondering: is the waiting-time until winter needed for the wine's development, or only for the best situation to drink it? And how long should be the shelf life of the preserve and pickles? THANKS! :D

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