appetizers, feast magazine article, snacks

pickled watermelon rind.

Until this summer, I thought watermelon rinds existed only as a watermelon handle: somewhere to grasp your watermelon slice so you could take it places. Also, as a makeshift basket for your watermelon-inclusive fruit salads; I see you, sixties-era garden party. Turns out, those rinds you’ve been throwing away can be the best part of your summer and your fall: all you have to do is pickle them.

Some people get a little weirded out when it comes to pickling fruit. Pickled fruit is definitely not the same thing as fresh fruit, but it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to hit those deeper, sour notes and make your mouth pucker with a full range of tart, sweet, and spicy elements. Pickling also guides your fruit more into savory territory, blending it seamlessly into things like charcuterie, grilled meat dishes, and heartier salads – places where regular fresh fruit isn’t always welcome. And in watermelon’s case, it does more than normal: Not only does it extend the life of the fruit, but it makes beautiful and practical use of something you would otherwise throw away. How great is that?

I can promise you that this is not something you should buy from grocery shelves: mass-produced watermelon rind is not what I’m going on and on about here. It’s usually an unappealing, murky green color, swimming in a brine that’s about one-tenth as flavorful as mine. Trust me: comparing these beauties you see before you with commercial stuff is like saying fresh, plump summer strawberries are the same as the limp frozen ones. These get their flavor from candied ginger, peppercorns, a little allspice, and some chile – you pick whether you’d like serrano, jalapeño, or Fresno chile in these, they all work wonderfully here. You’ll want to make these fast: summer is about to make an exit, and those watermelons will go right along with it.

photo courtesy of Jennifer Silverberg

This recipe comes from my Feast Magazine column this month, and I daresay it’s one of my favorites so far. Fitting, because it marks my 5th year (what?) with the magazine; I can’t believe it either. I’ll give you the recipe for pickled watermelon rind below, but if you want the recipe for what I made with it (these Pork Tenderloin Pickled Watermelon Wraps), head right over here.

Pickled Watermelon Rind

These pickles pack a punch courtesy of the serrano pepper: If you’d like to tone it down, substitute a fresh jalapeño or Fresno chile for half the heat.

Yields | 2 32-oz canning jars |

  • 1½ cups white wine vinegar
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • ¹⁄₃ cup candied ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp allspice berries
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2½ lbs watermelon rind, dark skin peeled, ¼-inch red flesh left on, diced into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 serrano chile, sliced into thin rounds

| Preparation | In a large saucepan over high heat, add vinegar, water and sugar; stir until sugar dissolves. Add ginger, cinnamon sticks, salt, allspice berries and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and add watermelon rind; set aside to cool for 30 minutes. Divide serrano rounds between 2 32-ounce canning jars; divide watermelon rind and other ingredients evenly between jars. Pour liquid over rind until covered and let cool to room temperature; seal lids tightly and refrigerate.

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  • Reply John / Kitchen Riffs September 6, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    LOVE pickled watermelon rind! I fell in love with David Chang’s method several years ago (changing it up each time I make it, just because). This looks fabulous — the chile is an excellent idea. Thanks!

  • Reply elizabeth September 19, 2018 at 4:39 am

    I wonder if all of those excellent spices would help me get over my aversion to watermelon, which I don’t really like because it doesn’t really taste like anything to me–if I can find a small watermelon at the store just yet I might give this a try before they are gone until next year!

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