Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Great Watermelon Rind Pickle Experiment: Part 1

It’s an argument that has repeated itself many times: my mom and I are in the pickle aisle at the grocery store and I spot a jar of pickled watermelon rinds. I get excited and say I want them to which my mom replies “you won’t like them.” I don’t know if this works on young children but it usually discourages me. But after a recent discussion with a neighbor who declared her love for pickled watermelon rinds I was emboldened.

The most logical way to try something new like watermelon rind pickles would be to buy a jar for a few dollars at the grocery store and sample them. But I like to make things difficult so I decided to buy a whole watermelon and make them myself.

Since we were going to be using the rind itself I decided to splurge and get an organic watermelon from our local farmer’s market. Although this made the experiment more expensive I rationalized it by telling myself that although the watermelon was five dollars (and weighted a little over five pounds) the rind would have been thrown away anyway and was therefore technically free.

Our first surprise came when we cut the watermelon open. It was yellow! Although I had heard of yellow watermelon I was unaware that I had bought one (if that is the fault of me or the person who wrote the signs we may never know). Sadly the conclusion among my family was that the yellow watermelon wasn’t actually as watermelony as red watermelons.

But I proceeded with the pickling. First I sliced the watermelon into 1 inch slices (ok I’ll admit it, my dad actually did it, I hate cutting melons). Then I cut the flesh off of each rind (I actually did that part). Once I’d put all the flesh aside to be nibbled (that sounds grosser then it actually was) I peeled the green part of the rind off with a potato peeler and cut the rinds into approximately 1 by 2 inch pieces. These pieces got layered with salt, weighted down, covered with water and then they sat overnight.

The next day we thoroughly washed the rind pieces and when we tasted them we discovered they were already edibly soft and surprisingly watermelon flavored. Although the recipes I consulted wanted me to boil the watermelon for either 10 or 15 minutes until fork tender I decided to forgo this step since the watermelon already seemed tender enough to me.

One recipe wanted me to boil the rind in the pickling liquid for a long time (I think it said at least an hour) while another recipe wanted me to bring the liquid to a boil then pour it over the rind and let it sit at room temperature for 2 hours. I thought that boiling it for an hour seemed like it would have made it too mushy so I opted for the latter choice and heated the pickling liquid and poured it over the rind and let it sit.

Although most recipes call for the rinds to be flavored with cinnamon I instead decided to use fresh ginger, a suggestion I had found in a recent issue of Cooking Light magazine. I also used cider vinegar instead of white vinegar so my rinds may be more brownish then most.

The worst part is that I have to wait to see how they came out, I’m very excited. Although mom had initially been reluctant when I suggested doing a second batch she relented when we realized we had already promised to give away 2 jars, and had only made 2 jars, which meant we wouldn’t have been able to try them. So we’ll just have to make more!

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