My husband practically begs me to make watermelon rind pickles for him every summer. It's a favorite that his grandma used to make. She would typically serve watermelon pickles for Christmas. She would use food coloring to tint the pickles in pink and green holiday colors.
I had never heard of or tried watermelon rind pickles before I met my husband. I wasn't convinced that I would like them. After all, why would you eat the rind? But I gave it a try for my husband. And what do you know, I actually like watermelon rind pickles quite a bit -- although not as much as my husband, who will eat half a jar in one night!
I went to the North Grand Farmers Market in Ames to find the watermelons. Most of the watermelons at the the grocery store are the seedless variety nowadays, and we find that seedless watermelons don't have very thick rinds. And when you're making watermelon rind pickles, you want a lot of rind to work with.
To my surprise, the vendor at the farmers market gave me two overripe watermelon for free (!) when I told him I was making watermelon rind pickles. I brought them home and asked my hubby to cut up the rinds for me, since his knife skills are better than mine.
He came up with a ingenious way to get the most rind from the watermelon. He used our Oxo potato peeler to strip away the green part of the rind. He even took a picture for my blog to demonstrate.
Many watermelon rind pickle recipes use white sugar and food coloring to tint the pickles. My favorite recipe uses brown sugar and no food coloring. The pickles aren't as pretty, but they taste like caramel candy, with a nice sourness from the vinegar. Yes, they taste way better than they look!
Below is my favorite watermelon rind pickle recipe, from the "Joy of Pickling." The pickles are are a little time consuming to make, but will definitely impress your friends and family when served on a holiday relish tray. Enjoy!
Watermelon Rind PicklesAdapted from "The Joy of Pickling"
- 7 C. prepared watermelon rind (cut away the pink flesh and green skin, then cut into 1/2 to 3/4-inch pieces)
- 6 C. cold water
- 1 quart cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar (I use white)
- 5 C. firmly packed dark brown sugar
- Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks,, browken
- 1 Tbl. whole cloves
Put the watermelon rind into a pot and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil, and boil the rind until it is just translucent; don't let it get soft.
In another pot, bring to a boil the vinegar and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Tie the spices in a spice bag or scrap of cheesecloth, and add them to the syrup. Drain the rind and add it to the syrup, too. Bring the contents to a simmer. Simmer them for 1-1/2 hours, until the syrup is dark and thick.
Remove the spice bag. Ladle the rind and syrup into pint or half-pint mason jars, leaving 1/2 headspace, and close the jars with 2-piece caps. Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath.
Store the jars in a cool, dry, dark place.