Many chefs pride themselves on using every part of the ingredients they buy, whether it’s making stock from chicken bones or bread pudding out of day-old bread. That’s why this recipe for Watermelon-Rind Pickles caught my eye — what a resourceful way to use scraps most people would throw away!
This old-fashioned favorite is making a comeback with the culinary world’s current canning craze. Next time you’re cooling down with a refreshing watermelon salad, hold onto the thick rind (we recommend the Dixie Lee watermelon variety). With some basic ingredients and a bit of patience, you’ll end up with a soft, rich souvenir of summer.
Rind of 1 large watermelon
3/4 cup pickling salt or 3/4 heaping cup kosher salt
1 gallon plus 1 cup water
6 cups granulated sugar
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
4 cups cider vinegar
4 cinnamon sticks, halved
1 Tbs. whole cloves
1 Tbs. whole allspice
1/4 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
2 lemons, thinly sliced
Cut the watermelon rind into manageable chunks. Scrape away any remaining melon flesh from the rind, then pare off the hard green skin from the outside. This is the only laborious part of the process, so persevere. Cut the rind into bite-size cubes or small strips or, if you have lots of rind and lots of patience, into decorative shapes. You should have 14 to 15 cups of lightly packed chunks.
In a large bowl, combine the salt and the 1 gallon water and stir to dissolve the salt. Add the watermelon rind and top with a plate to keep the rind submerged. Soak for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Drain the rind, rinse well and drain again.
In a large saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, vinegar and cinnamon sticks and add the 1 cup water. Tie the cloves, allspice and mustard seeds in a small piece of cheesecloth and add to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the watermelon rind and lemon slices. Cover the pan with a clean dish towel and let the mixture stand at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.
Prepare eight 1-pint canning jars according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Set the watermelon mixture over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the rind turns somewhat translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Discard the bag of spices. Spoon the watermelon mixture into the prepared jars, dividing the lemon slices and cinnamon sticks more or less evenly among the jars and leaving 1/4 inch of headspace.
Process the jars in a boiling-water bath according to the manufacturer’s instructions, generally about 10 minutes. Let the pickles stand for at least several weeks before serving. Refrigerate the jars after opening. Makes about 8 pints.