The editors at MOTHER EARTH NEWS get the afternoon munchies just like every other bunch of working folks, so we were delighted last week when colleague Landon Hall, associate editor at our sister magazine Motorcycle Classics, delivered a beautiful pie about 3 p.m.
His wife, Marie, had baked the pie, he said. And then he made a curious request: Guess the secret ingredient.
With pleasure, we all said, digging in. Summer squash, guessed one. Another lobbied for green tomatoes. In the end, only Editor-in-Chief Cheryl Long guessed correctly: Watermelon rind. “I recognized the flavor of my grandmother’s watermelon rind pickles,” she said.
It’s a rich, sweet, mincemeat-like pie filling. You don’t really taste the watermelon rind; you just enjoy its mild crunch. Turns out the pie that Marie baked was from the inestimable Ken Haedrich, whose recipes virtually always please. So we happily share his recipe with you.
And the next time you crack open a watermelon, realize that the sweet, dripping flesh is only the first good part. Save the rind for the second.
From Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie by Ken Haedrich
When you eat a piece of watermelon, you take the last juicy bite and toss out the rind, right? Well, not if you want to bake one of the more unusual pies in this collection. A holdover from the days when thrifty farm wives were reluctant to waste a scrap of food, this pie gets its primary ingredient not from the flesh of the watermelon, but from the peeled rind. First you cook the diced rind in lightly sugared water until tender. Then you combine it with raisins, nuts, brown sugar, vinegar and spices. Does it taste anything like watermelon? Not really. It’s more like mock mincemeat, making this more of a fall pie than a summer one. Serve this to your family and friends and see if they can guess what’s in it. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Pastry for a 2-crust pie
3 cups peeled and diced watermelon rind
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dark raisins
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
If you haven’t already, prepare the pastry and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.
Combine the watermelon rind and ¼ cup of the granulated sugar in a large saucepan. Add water just to cover. Bring to a boil, partially cover, and continue to boil until the rind is tender and translucent, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain well, then transfer the rind to a large bowl and cool.
On a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper, roll the larger portion of the pastry into a 12-inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Invert the pastry over a 9-inch standard pie pan, center, and peel off the paper. Gently tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and let the overhang drape over the edges. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Stir the remaining ½ cup granulated sugar into the cooled rind. Stir in the raisins, nuts, vinegar and brown sugar, then stir in the flour, spices and salt.
On another sheet of floured waxed paper, roll the other half of dough into a 10-inch circle. Turn the filling into the chilled pie shell, smoothing the top with your hands or a spoon. Lightly moisten the rim of the pie shell. Invert the top pastry over the filling, center and peel off the paper. Press the top and bottom pastries together along the dampened edge. Trim the pastry with scissors or a paring knife, leaving an even ½-inch overhang all around, then sculpt the overhang into an upstanding ridge. Poke several steam vents into the top of the pie with a fork or paring knife; put a couple of the vents near the edge of the crust so you can check the juices there. To glaze the pie, lightly brush the pastry with the beaten egg white and sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar.
Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and rotate the pie 180 degrees, so that the part that faced the back of the oven now faces forward. Just in case, slide a large aluminum-foil lined baking sheet onto the rack below to catch any spills. Continue to bake until the top is dark golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. This is not a particularly juicy pie, so you may or may not see juices bubbling up through the steam vents.
Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 1 hour. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Recipe for Success:
When you peel the rind, be sure to remove all of the outermost skin with a sharp peeler, since it’s the toughest part of the skin. Don’t undercook the rind, thinking that it will soften further as it bakes. Because of the vinegar in the filling, this isn’t likely to happen.
Photos by Marie Hall