Melons are ready for harvest and this week I found a yellow watermelon and a cantaloupe in my CSA box. Seems like as good a time as any to make an old-fashioned Southern treat: Watermelon rind pickles.
Watermelon rind is a great source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin A, magnesium, and potassium. You can get even more vitamins and minerals in your watermelon by simply selecting the yellow flesh variety. The more yellow, the more nutritious it is.
Watermelon has higher concentrations of lycopene—an antioxidant that protects against cancer and cardiovascular disease—than any other fresh fruit or vegetable, and it also boosts the immune system.
For pregnant women, the benefits of watermelon rind go beyond just vitamins and minerals. The rind has also been proven to reduce heart burn or acid reflux, reduce swelling, and its natural sugars can even alleviate morning sickness and dehydration.
For pregnant women in their third trimester, consuming watermelon rind can also reduce muscle cramps, as the amino acids citrulline and arginine contained in the fruit will help relax your blood vessels. So if you are pregnant, make sure you eat some watermelon rind from time to time.
Watermelon rind pickles have a sweet, sour, spicy, chutney flavor. All that soaking and boiling and soaking and boiling softens the rind to the consistency of a ripe pear.
The sugary syrup is, of course, pretty sweet, but the vinegar gives it a great tang, like a sweet Gherkin pickle. The cinnamon, pepper, allspice, and cloves add a lovely, autumn harvest flavor.
Normally, I like to lacto-ferment pickles, but traditional watermelon rind pickles need to be softened first by cooking, which unfortunately kills any bacteria that might do the pickling for you.
Traditional watermelon pickles are also sweet, and I’m not sure how to get the sweet and sour, chutney-type flavor any other way than by using vinegar and sugar. (If you know another way that doesn’t involve whey, please let me know!!)
- 2 quarts watermelon rind (equal to one medium-sized melon)
- 3/4 cup sea salt
- 3 quarts pure water
- 3 cups unrefined cane or coconut sugar
- 3 cups apple cider vinegar
- 3 cups pure water
- 1 Tbsp. (about 48) whole cloves
- 1 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
- 6 cinnamon sticks, broken into 1-inch pieces
- 1 Tbsp. Allspice
- Trim the pink flesh and the green outer skin from the rind.
- Cut rind into small strips, about 1" x 2".
- Cover with brine made by combining 3 quarts water and 3/4 cup salt.
- Refrigerate overnight. Drain and rinse in the morning.
- Cover the watermelon with water and bring to a boil; continue cooking until fork-tender, about another 15 minutes. (Pay attention - Overcooking will cause the rinds to become rubbery.) Drain.
- Combine sugar, vinegar, 3 cups water and spices. Boil 5 minutes and then pour over watermelon. Refrigerate overnight.
- Heat watermelon in syrup to boiling; reduce heat to medium and simmer for one hour to reduce a bit.
- Pack the hot watermelon pickles loosely into clean, hot pint jars.
- Cover with boiling syrup, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed.
- Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; apply two-piece metal lids.
- Without sealing, these pickles will last 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
- To can and seal, submerge the full jars in boiling water (enough water so the jars are 1-2" below the surface); boil for 15 minutes (or slightly longer at higher altitudes).