Pickled watermelon rind
Fun fact! There’s a website devoted to watermelon rind. Not the flesh, just the rind.
Generally, watermelon rind isn’t something that most people think of eating. The green skin is unpalatable and the white ‘pith’ is mostly tasteless.
I spied watermelon rind pickle in a salad at Thai restaurant Cookie in Melbourne when I was there in January. Intrigued, I had to order it. Sidenote: check out the restaurant menu; there’s a single Italian dish under each of the sections. Weird. If you want to mix Thai and Italian then why not offer more? If just one, then why even bother?
The pickled watermelon salad was refreshing and I do like a simple pickle so I made some last month. It’s a great alternative to green mango or green papaya if it’s unavailable or out of season.
So what does it taste like? Imagine cucumber’s tough uncle came to town and you’d be getting close. It’s supposedly nutritionally superior to cucumber which if true, is interesting. I think it’d match nicely with grilled foods, thrown into a mixed pickle slaw or used as a play on som tum, that spicy and intense Thai green papaya salad. If you’re into being thrifty it also cuts out on produce wastage.
At Momofuku Seiōbo, watermelon rind was used as an ingredient for a wagyu beef dish and I’ve also seen a recipe for a salsa that whizzes up the rind in a food processor. So it’s something to consider the next time you munch into some juicy Summer watermelon. Put some rind aside to cook with before you instinctively throw it onto the compost heap.
This is an original recipe. If I’ve derived the recipe from somewhere else or adapted it, I’ll always credit the original source. If it’s a family or traditional Chinese recipe, then I’ll mention it in the post. The exact amounts depend on how much watermelon rind you have but it’s easily adapted to larger or smaller amounts. Use this as a guide.
Pickled watermelon rind
Feeds: Depends on how you’re eating it…pickles generally go very far.
Start cooking: At least 24 hours before eating
- Sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups x white vinegar
- 1/3-1/2 cup x sugar
- 1 x Thai red chilli, slit in half
- 2 x garlic cloves, gently bruised
- First things first, slice off the watermelon flesh. I kept a small strip of pink flesh as the end result is very pretty and distinguishes it as watermelon.
- Using a vegetable peeler or knife, cut off the thick green watermelon skin. It’s inedible so make sure you cut it all off.
- Peel off lengths of the rind using the vegetable peeler into a large bowl. I ended up pickling only a quarter of my watermelon so it was about 3-4 loosely packed cups.
- Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of salt onto the rind peelings, toss together and leave in a colander over a bowl for 30 minutes to an hour. The salt will soften the rind and also exude some water.
- Lightly rinse the salt off the rind.
- Place the watermelon rind in a medium saucepan and cover with enough water to cover it by an inch. Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. This will make it more pliable and more palatable to eat. Drain thoroughly while you make the vinegar brine.
- Mix the vinegar with sugar (you can decrease to your taste), garlic, chilli and a scant teaspoon of salt until dissolved. For a stronger garlic and chilli hit, slice before mixing through.
- Add the rind and mix. There should be enough brine to almost submerge the pickle. The rind will collapse and shrink a little so don’t worry if it doesn’t seem to be enough.
- Cover the bowl with clingwrap and leave in the fridge for at least 12 hours but ideally, 24 hours before eating.
It’s not one of those mouthpuckering sour pickles so if you want that, then just use a single tablespoon of sugar instead.
This pickle will keep well for about 3-4 weeks but is probably best eaten in the first couple of weeks.