Watermelon Rind Pickles

watermelon rind pickles
Watermelon Rind PicklesTim Robison

Even when summer gets away from us at the restaurant and we're not able to pickle and preserve the heck out of everything in our path, we somehow find a way to make these pickles: It feels good to make something translucent and crispy out of stuff that's potentially trash. That's one reason we go to the trouble. The other is that they're a pork chop's soul mate. Use a vegetable peeler to peel a whole watermelon—it's easier than slicing it up first.

Watermelon Rind Pickles
Watermelon may not be the first thing in mind when people think pickles, but this translucent and crispy rind is basically pork chop's soul mate.
Yield: makes about 3 pints
Time: 10 hours

Ingredients

  • 12 cup salt
  • 2 qt. plus 2 cups water
  • Rind from 1 small watermelon, peeled and cut into roughly 1-by-3-inch strips
  • 2 cups white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • One 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch rings
  • 1 tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 10 cloves
  • 5 star anise
  • Zest of 1 orange, removed with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the salt in 2 quarts of water, and submerge the watermelon rinds in the brine overnight. Weigh them down by putting a heavy plate on top to be sure that they are completely submerged.
  2. The next day combine 2 cups of water, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, and spices in a 6-quart Dutch oven. Cover and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer the vinegar brine for 10 minutes.
  3. Drain and rinse the watermelon rinds, discarding the salt brine. Add the rinds along with the orange zest and lemon slices to the vinegar brine. Bring this to a boil and simmer, covered, until half the rinds are translucent, about 40 minutes. At that point the others will follow suit as they cool in the vinegar brine or are further processed in a hot-water bath. This is the trickiest part because you don't want the brine to cook down to syrup, but you do want the pickles to be cooked through. If the liquid starts to reduce significantly and darken in color before at least half your rinds are translucent, add up to 12 cup water and continue cooking.
  4. Cool the pickles to room temperature before serving. You can store them in the fridge, submerged in the vinegar brine and sealed in a container, for up to 3 months.