How to Pickle Watermelon Rinds

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PHOTO: FOTOLIA/YELLOWJ
After enjoying delicious watermelon, don't throw away the rinds... pickle them!

If your family really packs in the pickles, what do you do
when the cucumber crop comes a cropper? Well, don’t panic!
Just bear in mind that the best things in life are free . .
. and try substituting that otherwise wasted (or, we hope,
composted) watermelon rind!

Pickled rind, in fact, has much to recommend it . . . even
in a good cuke year. Besides adding color to a meal,
watermelon rind–when so preserved–is less
expensive and, in most cases, more easily prepared than
“plain ole pickles”. (You can, when putting up
rind–for instance–cut thirteen days off the
,justly famous “quick and easy” fourteen-day sweet pickle
recipe . . . and still enjoy a final product that’s every
bit as good.) In addition to that, pickled
watermelon rind is just unusual enough for presentation to
special friends as an unexpectedly delightful gift.

But enough palaver. Here are three recipes that should get
you off to a good start . . . and give you some guidelines
for converting your own favorite pickling instructions from
cucumbers to watermelon rind. Even though the originals
call for sugar, feel free to substitute raw sugar or
honey–or what have you–and adjust the amounts
to produce the sweetness you and your family prefer in the
finished product. (As a rule of thumb, Margaret Hasse,
in “The Honey Trip” in MOTHER NO. 37, suggests adding about
2/3 of a cup of honey–and deducting 3 tablespoons of
other liquid–for each cup of sugar that is left out.
For more advice, check
The Joy of
Cooking.–MOTHER.)

The following instructions are applicable to all three of
the pickling recipes below . . . as well as any of your own
you might want to experiment with:

Preparing Watermelon Rind for Pickling

Trim the dark skin and pink flesh from a thick watermelon
rind. (It’s easier if you first cut your rind into long
strips, then peel it. And a little pink left on
adds to the color of the preserved food.) Cut the trimmed
rind into one-inch pieces, or any shapes and sizes you
desire. (I happen to have a fluted chopper, a very
inexpensive item if you can find one . . . mine
was a premium from a mail-order gift catalog and makes
short and pretty work of this cutting.)

Next dissolve 3 tablespoons of slaked lime -check the label
on the bag to make sure it’s meant for
pickling–in 2 quarts of cold water, and pour the
solution over 4 quarts of prepared rind. Add more water, if
necessary, so that all the pieces are covered . . . and let
them stand 2 to 4 hours. (A substitute mixture of 1 cup
salt to 2 quarts cold water may be used, but you’ll have to
let it stand 6 hours, and your pickles will not be as
crisp.) (Note: I’ve also seen recommended–in
The Joy of Cooking and several other books on the
subject-the use of fresh grape or cherry leaves to add
crispness to any pickled product. Just toss a few of the
leaves in with the salt water before soaking the fruit, and
omit the lime entirely.–MOTHER.)

After the rind has soaked, rinse it well and cover it with
cold water. Then cook the pieces of rind until they’re just
tender and drain them again.

Now tie the appropriate spices–for whichever recipe
you’re using–into a cheesecloth bag. Combine them
with the remaining ingredients called for by the recipe and
simmer all the natural preservatives and flavorings for 10
minutes. Then add the watermelon rind and again simmer
until it becomes clear (add boiling water if the syrup gets
too thick during this cooking process). Once the rinds are
transparent, remove the spice bag, and pack the
pickles–boiling hot–into sterilized jars (leave
only 1/8-inch head space). Screw the caps on tight
or–for smaller batches that you’ll use up
quickly–simply refrigerate . . . and you’re done!

Now if we could only think of a way to make use of the
green outer shell . . . tan it for moccasins, maybe?

Original Watermelon Rind Pickles

This one has a nice lemony flavor and is a pretty
pale-yellow color.

2 tablespoons of whole cloves
3 sticks of cinnamon
2 pieces of ginger root
1 lemon, sliced thin
8 cups of sugar
1 quart of white vinegar
1 quart of water

Ozark Lime Pickles

You’ll find this a bit spicier than a sweet pickle. It’s
also attractive with its celery seeds floating around.

1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of celery seed
(do not tie in bag)
1 teaspoon of whole cloves
9 cups of sugar
2 quarts of vinegar

Sweet Icicle Watermelon Pickles

This was, originally, the formula for fourteen-day sweet
pickles.

1-1/2 tablespoons of mixed pickling
spices (available at almost any grocery store)
5 cups of sugar
5 cups of vinegar