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Wednesday 23 July 2014

Sluttishly Sweet: Pickled Watermelon Rind

Pickled watermelon rind is one of those culinary curiosities that befuddles my brain thinking about how it came into existence. Who looked at a watermelon, ate all its sweet, juicy flesh, spat out the seeds and then thought, "Hmm, I think I might try pickling all these leftover bits"?

Whatever the answer - and there's some dispute about whether the first watermelon rind pickle was made in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, or the Deep South - I am thankful to that experimental cook. These pickles are delicious - sweet, sour, and a little bit spicy. They taste like a warm, summery Christmas - surely the perfect flavour - and they're great with cold meats and cheese, and anything barbecued. I love mine with stilton or goat's cheese, or a lovely bit of prosciutto.

The pickling process spans a couple of days, but most of that is fridge time. It's not labour intensive at all, so next time you buy a watermelon, keep those rinds and give this recipe a go. It's important to note that these are not cupboard pickles - they're fridge pickles, and will last a maximum of 10 days in there. That's why I only made a small batch - although the recipe scales up if you fancy making more.

And if you need a something to sing while you pickle, I can highly recommend my reworking of Beyoncé's Drunk In Love:

"I've been pickling watermelon"

Na na na na etc.

Pickled Watermelon Rind (makes enough to fill one 500ml-capacity jar)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Fridge time: 48 hours in total
Cooking time: 10 minutes + 1 hour countertop cooling time

You will need:
  • 400g watermelon rind, green skin removed with a peeler, and a sliver of pink flesh still intact. It should be cut into small chunks. For guidance, my whole melon weighed 3kg; the piece I used for this recipe weighed around 1kg, and that gave me 400g of rinds.
  • 2 level tbsp salt
  • 100ml distilled white vinegar
  • 100g sugar (granulated or caster)
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1 tsp pink peppercorns (optional)
  • 1 small dried red chilli (optional)
Make it!
  1. The watermelon rind pieces need to soak in salty water overnight, so put them in a bowl (not aluminium), then mix 350ml cold water with the salt and pour over the top. Cover, and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.
  2. Once that's done, drain the rinds and rinse them really well in a colander.  
  3. In a large saucepan, combine the rinds, vinegar, sugar, and 100ml water and simmer, stirring all the while, until the sugar dissolves. Add the star anise, cinnamon stick half, cloves, peppercorns and chilli and simmer for five more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool for about an hour. Then use a slotted spoon to scoop the rinds and spices into a sterilised 500ml Kilner jar or similar, and pour over the liquid so that the rinds are completely covered. 
  5. Seal the jar and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before eating. Keep in the fridge for no more than 10 days. 
  • Play about with the spices and flavourings - ginger and lemon would be delicious instead of - or as well as - the above ingredients. 

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