Pickled Watermelon Rinds

5 Mar

We eat watermelon a few times a year, and usually throw the rinds into the compost pile. I figure that’s what most people do. But a while back I ran across the idea of pickling the rinds, and I was immediately hooked on the concept; I love the idea of using a quick, simple pickling process to render something that’s usually inedible into a delicious, tangy, and crunchy treat.

It might sound a little weird at first glance, but watermelon pickles have been around for a while. While in Germany and Eastern Europe they tend to pickle the red flesh of watermelon, there are a few Scandinavian recipes that focus on pickling the rinds. In the US, there are records of people making pickles of watermelon rinds dating back to the Civil War; those original recipes call for soaking the rinds in a salt brine, then boiling with sugar, vinegar, cloves, and cinnamon until clear and soft, which turns it into something resembling a sweet relish. I went with a Scandinavian approach, but left a little of the flesh on the rind in order to add a little natural sweetness to the pickle and to aid in the fermentation process (bacteria likes sugar!).

yields 1 pint

1/2 lb watermelon rind (about 1/4 watermelon), some flesh still attached
2 cups water
1 tbsp salt
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
1 sprig fresh dill (optional)

For my own recipe I kept things simple with just a salt water brine and some garlic, but if you’re looking for a more “pickley” taste, adding mustard seeds and fresh dill will do the trick.

To get your brine ready, boil the water, remove it from heat, stir in the salt, and allow to cool to room temperature (should take about 30 minutes). As you wait for the brine to cool, cut up and peel the hard green part of the rind using a vegetable peeler.

Place the cut pieces of watermelon rind into a pint-sized jar along with the garlic cloves (and mustard seeds/dill if you’re using it).

Once the brine is cool, pour it into the jar until it’s near the lid. I like to put a small dish into the jar in order to push everything down and keep it submerged in water, but it’s not totally necessary for a short ferment like this one.

Store in a dark place (preferably pretty warm) for three days and taste it. I liked it at the three-day mark, but decided to give it a couple more days to see how the flavors developed. My instincts proved right – at the five-day mark the taste was much more complex and rewarding, with a tinge of sourness to it.

That’s it! After five days the watermelon will have taken on a yellowish hue and a slightly pickled taste, and will have softened enough to eat while keeping a nice crunch to it.

It should stay nice and crisp in the fridge for about three weeks.

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26 Responses to “Pickled Watermelon Rinds”

  1. Tina T. March 5, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    This is very interesting… I’ve definitely never heard of pickled watermelon rinds before, like most people I just end up throwing mine away! I’ll keep this in mind next time I have watermelon!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Tina from http://ohsnapletseat.com

  2. tntxbelle2013 March 5, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    What an interesting concept. It’s so cool to know that you can do that to something that is usually used for compost.

  3. berthamakes March 5, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    Reblogged this on Bertha's Blog.

  4. CateyLou March 5, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    What a great idea! I love finding ways to reduce waste, I will have to try this next time I buy a watermelon!

    • Caroline Tabor March 5, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

      You see this dish quite a bit in the South. I haven’t had any for years. I’ll have to do it this summer. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Darwin's Table March 6, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    This is really left field, and an interesting idea. I just can’t see myself liking a pickled watermelon though, I like the sweetness of the red flesh, and feel that would be taken away. Is that the case?

    • Michael Enis July 24, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

      No, you only pickle the watermelon rind. Eat the flesh of the melon and reserve the rind for pickles.

  6. Leah March 6, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    This is so interesting! I just heard about pickled watermelon rinds the other night while watching Chopped on the Food Network and I had no idea what they were. Thanks for sharing this post – I think I’ll give it a try during the summertime. (Pinned it for later) :)

  7. nickerockers March 7, 2013 at 7:12 am #

    looks interesting. We just brought a whole watermelon from a roadside stall so I think I might try this on the weekend!

  8. TheBuxomGourmand March 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    I’ve definitely got to try this. I’d read about it before, but this makes me want to try it. I started pickling and canning last year, and this year we’re going to add various melons to our garden, so this is a must. Thanks for the awesome reminder!

  9. Kiki March 9, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    Tried with other fruits as well?

  10. fabulousfannyjr March 10, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Reblogged this on global_food.

  11. justagirlfromaamchimumbai March 12, 2013 at 2:05 am #

    Oh yummy, this looks perfect for a hot summers day, I can almost feel the tanginess as I take my first bite :)

  12. Tali @ Macnifique July 2, 2013 at 10:08 am #

    My watermelon rinds are pickling right now! Was fascinated by this recipe – finally got around to making it! I can’t wait to try them!

  13. southsidesocialist July 13, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    Just tried this with a brine/vinegar mixture instead of just brine, filling the sterilised jar with rind and boiling liquid, and sealing.

    • Jessica April 30, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

      That is a great idea and I am sure it’d be tasty but I believe in the fermentation literature I’ve read, it says that the bacteria would be inhibited by the acid in vinegar – for those who would like to try this for the benefits of the bacteria and yeasts in live, fermented foods.

  14. Venidle July 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Amazing :)

    Btw, I’m from Easter Europe and never heard of pickled watermelon. Did you mean any specific country?

    • Russ Crandall July 26, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

      Hi Venidle, pickled watermelon (both rind and fruit) is pretty common in Russia and I’ve heard others say that it’s found in other former USSR states as well.

      • Venidle July 28, 2013 at 7:59 am #

        That’s strange… It can be found maybe in Georgia and this region. I come from Poland, but my family used to live in various regions of Russia (Central/Baikal/Western) and never heard of pickled watermelon. Maybe you mean the Asian part of this country? Watermelons are not really common in Eastern Europe. Maybe you mean South-East?

        • Russ Crandall July 28, 2013 at 9:05 am #

          Hi Venidle, I am a Russian translator and teacher in my day job, and I work with a faculty of native Russians and Belarusians, who are all familiar with this dish. Googling “Russian pickled watermelon” produces many examples in English; in Russian, searching for “соленый арбуз” produces 68,000 results. While this doesn’t give as many results as more common pickled vegetables like соленый огурец (pickled cucumber, 541,000 results) I hope it’s enough to persuade you that this dish exists in Eastern Europe.

          • Venidle July 28, 2013 at 9:29 am #


            Definitely, cucumbers are one of the most popular vegetables to pickle. It is always something new to learn about watermelons (your pickled watermelon rinds are on my to-do list). However I think you should be more specific using the term “Eastern Europe” (don’t take this personally, as a Russian translator you are most probably aware of this).

            Nevertheless, I feel completely convinced :)

  15. Liz August 9, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Have you used whey at all as a fermentation starter? Would love to know if you have tweaked the recipe to include the starter. This is an awesome idea!!!

    • Russ Crandall August 10, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

      Liz, I haven’t taken the plunge and used whey in fermenting, but I am sure it’d work out fine.

  16. liz killingsworth June 28, 2014 at 12:02 am #

    I’m looking for a recipe for the sweeter version of pickled watermelon rind. I think it has whole cloves in it. My mother made it when I was a child.


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