Pickles Pt. 1: Watermelon Rind Pickles
I'm learning a thing or two about pickles. There are 2 methods for getting to a pickled state. Both forms are a template for billions of varieties with added herbs, spices, juices, and flavors. The first is to increase the acidity by using vinegar, as a preservatives. Examples are pickled onions, refrigerator pickles, and the Southern classic included here, pickled watermelon rinds.
The second is to actually ferment the food submerged in a bath of room temp. salt water to create lactic acids. Osmosis draws out the liquids, hardens pectins, and keeps the vegetable crunchy. Lactic acids develop and increases the acidity, preserving the pickles. You can learn a whole lot about fermenting here: www.wildfermentation.com
Watermelon Pickles are a southern staple and an example of the first kind of pickles. This is a pretty easy recipe, and a great way to use up summer's leftover watermelon rind. I have read that this recipe dates back to the depression era, when nothing was wasted. The recipe is based off Bon Appétit's August 1998 recipe.
Watermelon Rind Pickles
1 4-pound piece watermelon, quartered
8 cups water
2 tblsp, plus 2 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
8 whole cloves
8 whole black peppercorns
2 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Cut all but a thin pink layer of watermelon pulp, and reserve for another time. Slice off the hard green skin of the watermelon rind. Cut rind into 1/2" by 1 1/2" strips. Bring 8 cups of water to boil with 2 tblsp of salt. Add prepared rind strips to water, boil for 5 minutes, and drain.
Meanwhile prepare the pickling juice by heating 2 tsp salt plus the remaining ingredients over medium. Stir until sugar dissolves, and remove from heat. Add the pickling liquid plus rinds to a large glass jar. Cool, cover, and refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours. Strain the liquids into a sauce pan, boil the liquids, reserving the rinds. Put both back into a jar for another 8 hours in the fridge. Repeat once more. You've made pickles, they keep for 2 weeks in the cold.
These pickles have a sweet, sour spicy, chutney flavor. The pickle juice become a little syrupy. The color looks beautiful in the light, but kind of creepy yellow-brown otherwise. No one will recognize their relation to watermelon.