I confess that in my goal to post on this blog every week, I sometimes have to share recipes that I simply like, instead of recipes that I absolutely, positively, totally ADORE! It’s just not possible to find a new recipe every week that is a life changer. But once in a while, I do find a recipe that results in something so delicious, so interesting, so enticing, that I can’t wait to share it with anyone who’s willing to listen.
This is one of those recipes. Pickled watermelon rind is nothing new, though it’s somewhat new to me. Where I grew up, a traditional desert was watermelon rind that had been preserved in a heavy sugar syrup. It was always kept in the fridge and served ice cold in the hot summer months. It has always been one of my favorites.
So when I saw this recipe for pickled watermelon rind in Bon Appétit, I was a little put off by the idea of a pickled version of one of my favorite desserts. So I ignored it. But then, the wonderful guys of the Bitten Word blog made it and they gushed about it so much that I decided to give it a try myself.
It was an easy process. Peel the rind, cut it into pieces, cook it for a little while in the pickling liquid, and pour everything in a glass jar. A few hours in the fridge and Steve and I took our first bite of the golden-green-red cubes. We didn’t say a word for a few seconds and then we both started laughing and crying out “oh my god! this is so amazing!”
Yes, it’s that good. It’s sweet and sour and a tiny bit spicy, with that distinct flavor of the star anise to round everything out. And the texture is simply miraculous. Each bite goes from crunchy to soft, while always incredibly juicy. It’s a great side dish to heavily spiced or spicy foods, goes great with seafood, or as a little starter snack before dinner. Though I would probably even consider having it as dessert.
Pickled Watermelon Rind – Slightly dapted from Bon Appétit
About 4 lbs of watermelon
1 large (or two small) thai red chile, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
1 1″ piece peeled ginger, thinly sliced
2 star anise pods
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 cup sugar
1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
Using a vegetable peeler, remove tough green rind from watermelon; discard.
Slice watermelon in about 1″ thick slices. Cut away all but ¼” flesh from each slice; reserve flesh for another use. Cut rind into 1″ pieces. (You should have about 4 cups.)
Bring chile, ginger, star anise, salt, peppercorns, sugar, vinegar, and ½ cup water to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Add watermelon rind and return to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until just crisp tender (this will take anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes; use a fork or knife to test a piece). Remove from heat and let cool, setting a small lid or plate directly on top of rind to keep submerged in brine, if needed.
Transfer rind and liquid to an airtight container (I used a 3 cup – 24 oz mason jar); cover and chill at least 12 hours.
DO AHEAD: Watermelon rind can be pickled 2 weeks ahead. Keep chilled.
In Cyprus, the watermelon rind is first soaked in “asvestis” (it only sounds like asbestos, but it’s not) to preserver the crispness, then rinsed well before the preserving process. Asvestos is essentially lime (the mineral, not the fruit.) You can find food-grade lime at various online outlets. Search for “pickling lime”. There are certain types of watermelon that have thick rind, perfect for preserves, but I haven’t figured where to purchase the fruit, only where to order the seeds of such variety. The pickles look delicious btw, we may have to try that ourselves!
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