Will you have a beautiful watermelon for the Labor Day weekend? The white part of the rind makes a delicious pickle! Be sure to take a little time to make some. Not just for a garnish on sandwiches, watermelon pickle is also a key ingredient in my Red Pepper Relish that I’ll share in a future post. The recipe below has won several ribbons in State Fairs over the years.
After the watermelon feast, you’re busy, so go ahead and just save the rinds in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until tomorrow when you have a little time. They will keep just fine, and you’ll be carefully trimming every bit of pink off the white rind and then salting it, so don’t worry about germs, either.
The melon in the picture is an heirloom “Moon and Stars” that we just picked. See the yellow moon and stars on the rind? It’s a small variety, so I’ll count it as a half full-size melon.
• 1/2 a full size watermelon with a thick white rind, best about 1/2-inch thick
• 1 cup pickling salt
• 2 quarts water
• 2 quarts apple cider vinegar*
• 6 cups cane sugar
• 1 tablespoon pickling salt
• about 6 inches cinnamon stick
• 1 tablespoon whole black pepper corns
• 1 tablespoon whole cloves
• 1 tablespoon whole allspice
• 1 tablespoon green cardamom pods
• 1/4 cup fresh ginger in 1/4 inch dice or pureed**
I have a little folding table that I use for lengthy prep chores like this one; it does save my back!
This is the tedious part: Remove every bit of the red melon from the rind and enjoy. Make sure there is no pink showing on the rind. I cut the rind into strips about 1 inch wide.
Peel the hard green part off the rind, making sure to get every scrap while keeping the white part as thick as possible. I use an Oxo Good Grips peeler for this. Cut the strips about 3/4-inch wide, so you have pieces about 1 inch by 3/4 inch. Try to keep them uniform in size.
In a large bowl or a non-reactive pot, dissolve the pickling salt in the cold water. Add the rind, stir and weigh down the rind with a plate so that it stays submerged. Refrigerate overnight.
If you have animals, the less desirable parts away from the sweet heart of the melon are a nice treat. (Not the green rind, of course.) I used to toss it into a bucket and call my horse to the pasture gate. He loved watermelon! So do chickens, pigs and goats.
Drain the rind into a colander, rinse well, then rinse again in fresh water. Put the rind into a large pot (such as a stainless 8-quart stock pot), cover with water, bring to a boil, then simmer about 8 to 10 minutes until the rind is just barely tender. Watch carefully and don’t overcook. The rind pieces will be starting to look transparent around the edges. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop cooking.
In the big stainless pot, mix up the syrup, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove most of the spices, especially all the cinnamon stick. Add the rind and bring back to a boil. Simmer just a few minutes, take off the burner, then ladle the rind into pint canning jars.
Fill to within ¼ inch of the brim with the syrup. Seal and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Store one month before using to develop full flavor.
Makes about 6 pints.
* Note: Be sure to get real apple cider vinegar, usually available only in pints or quarts — never the apple cider-flavored vinegar available in ½ gal and gallon size. Don’t waste all your hard work on cheap vinegar. Use only apple cider vinegar without a “mother.” Your homemade vinegars are wonderful for cooking, but won’t have the guaranteed level of acidity needed for making these pickles.
** Bonus Trick: How to Save Fresh Ginger for Easy Use
You know how you will buy a nice piece of fresh ginger and sometimes use only a little? The rest then ends up dry and shriveled. Here’s what I do:
About once a year, in early summer, I’ll find some pretty ginger and get a nice hand of it. I roughly peel it, not too picky. Then, I cut it into about ½-inch pieces and toss those into the food processor. I use the Cuisinart Mini, which holds about 2 cups. I do a rough chop, then add about ¼ cup cane sugar, then run the processor to make a lovely juicy puree. I put this into a wide-mouth jar and put it on a door shelf of the the freezer — so the ginger puree is always handy and ready to go.
Because of the sugar, it doesn’t freeze very hard, so you can always dip out a spoonful. Try using ginger puree in a stir fry or other savory dish, you’ll hardly notice that tiny bit of sugar.
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