Watermelons are rolling here in Texas. Big, generous, rotund things. I have been buying one every week for the last four weeks and we have been wolfing down chunks of the cool, sweet fruit and also popping them in the blender to drink watermelon juice! Paired with spicy foods it's perfection.
But, I am going to share a less common way to enjoy a part of the melon that almost always ends up in your trash or compost: the rind. Reminiscent of a Portlandia skit where two eager hipsters pickle literally anything (shoes, cutlery etc...), the crunchier, slightly sour rind of the watermelon may not seem a likely candidate. It is however a depression era tradition and a southern thing to do. My only memory of pickled watermelon rind is of my grandmother making a sugary, salty and somehow bland version. Though she wasn't the best cook ever, she did make excellent popovers, so I won't fault her for her pickles.
We have all experienced the sensation that something is lacking in a meal, and for me a crunchy, sour, salty bite of a vinegar pickle often does the trick. Nothing fancy, just something to balance rich flavors and get my mouth watering. So enjoy these along side or on a sandwich, with some BBQ, with a rice bowl or part of a larger fresh salad. Pickle on!
So ripe! Make the pickles the same day you cut the melon so the rind doesn't dry out. Also, reserve a chunk of the flesh to add to your pickles before you let them marinate overnight. The juice that comes out of the flesh will sweeten the brine.
Remove the rind right down to the layer that is in-between the harder, light green layer and the beginning of the flesh. The flesh will be visible here and there. You want this in-between layer for your pickles.
Your rind should be pink and white. You want the outermost layer of the pink that is just a tad harder than the inside flesh, and the innermost layer of the white. This will make crunchy but not woody pickles.
Cut nice sturdy matchsticks of the rind. I left mine long, about 3 inches. Do what you like...maybe dice for a nice garnish or topping. Just four ingredients folks.
Marinate covered overnight and they are done!
Vinegar Watermelon Rind Pickles
- 2 heaping cups watermelon rind cut into 1/8th-1/4th inch matchsticks
- 1/2 C rice vinegar
- 1/2 Tsp sea salt
- 5 inches green onion, thin bias cut
- 1 chunk watermelon flesh (1-2 inches square)
Prepare the rind by cutting away the green outer layer and the better part of the woody, light green rind below it leaving a thin layer of white just above where the pink starts. Slice this rind about 1/8th to 1/4 inch thick and leave about 3 inches long. To measure two heaping cups, I used a pyrex liquid measure, but just make sure you have at least 2 cups, loosely packed. Mix the rind with the vinegar, sea salt, and sliced green onion and add the watermelon chunk to the bowl. Toss gently, cover and refrigerate overnight. The pickles will keep for two weeks in the fridge. Enjoy!
Yield: 6 servings