Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pickles Pt. 1: Watermelon Rind Pickles

It was watermelon, now its a pickle!

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 App├ętit'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.

4 comments:

  1. I first heard about watermelon rind pickles in the Little House on the Prairie series, where I was greatly confused by it. It just seems so strange! But anyway, I just wanted to point out that wasting nothing was important long before the Depression - it's only been recently that we've wasted so much by throwing it away, instead of pickling it or using it to feed livestock. At least people are composting more now....

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  2. Fascinating! I haven't delved into the pickling phenomenon yet, other than to oogle other cooks' efforts, but this is something worth thinking about. Is it easy enough to recommend to a first time pickler? (Don't tease...:) )

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  3. Wow...watermelon rind pickles sound exciting! I have only been toeing the idea of making pickles recently and haven't gone far really (apart from the sad "vinegary" cucumber salad I made a week back) but this would really spruce up a dish!

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  4. Wow, Little House on the Prairie. I had no idea the recipe was that old. Thanks Kristan. And read all those books when I was a little girl.

    To tastestopping and amritac, refridgerator pickles are no big deal. You put ingredients in a jar, and wait. Its really satisfying. McClure's, Epicurious, Allrecipes have plenty of recipes.

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