Plenty of my food-related explorations have been inspired by necessity, or if not technically necessity at least the desire to preserve the fresh food of the present to be enjoyed at a later date. Bumper crop of Concord grapes behind the house we’re hired to clear out? Learn to make jelly! As I keep being reminded when reading 1970s-era cookbooks and alternative lifestyle texts, my generation is having to rediscover what a previous generation had to rediscover after a previous generation’s preserving secrets were suppressed and made almost obsolete by the advent of frozen food. I’m talking about the nearly lost art of “putting by” seasonal food whether by pickling, canning, making jelly, or anything else you can learn from the Ball Blue Book or someone’s savvy grandma.
And so it happened that when the guys returned from the rhymes-with-bumpster laden with watermelon (and cantaloupe and cucumber), I decided it was high time to learn how to make watermelon rind pickle.
Being slightly overripe, the watermelon was super sweet and delicious and hit the spot perfectly on a hot almost-summer night. And as long as the rind is still hard, the pickle will work. I found this recipe on Epicurious and, my implicit trust in Bon Appetit being only slightly less than my slavish devotion to all things Gourmet (may that magazine rest in peace), I followed it for the most part.
I did have to substitute kombucha for half the cider vinegar, because of course I did. Luckily our latest batch was pretty sour. Also we don’t have any pickling spice and I couldn’t find the allspice.
It turns out that watermelon rind pickle is delicious. I’ve been calling it nature’s gummy candy, even though Bon Appetit had a lot more to do with it than nature. It’s sweet, tangy, a little spicy, and surprisingly watermelon-y for such a previously bland, tasteless part of the melon.
One batch is about half a watermelon’s worth of rind. I’m planning to use the other half to repeat the recipe in a tiny dice that could be used as a relish, maybe reducing the pickling liquid a little in the process to be more syrupy. We’ll see. Anyway, this one’s highly recommended: a great way to transform a part of the melon that’s not too easy to eat or compost into a treat.