Austin’s family has a recipe involving pickled watermelon rinds. I had never even heard of such a thing, but it sounded pretty good to me. After scouring the supermarkets for a jar and finding zilch, I decided to just make my own.
I checked out a number of recipes, but I chose this one from Brave Tart. Not only is it sour patch, (oooo, sour patch kids!) it also includes sassafras bark. I just happened to have some leftover from my Sassafras Chicken. Before this week, I’ve never made anything using a tree bark other than cinnamon, and I was curious how much of the flavor would peek through the rest of the spices in the rinds.
I don’t like wasting a lot of money on unusual, seldom-used ingredients, especially when I’m experimenting and have no idea how the end result will taste. Visiting a bulk spice/herb store solves that problem completely. Where else can you spend $2.78 on precisely 4 star anise, a single vanilla bean, and two scoops of tree bark? (watch out, raisin bran.)
1 medium watermelon (about 2+ lbs rind)
1 quart apple cider vinegar
2 lbs sugar
4 star anise
½ oz. sassafras bark
4 dried bird peppers
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Mmmmm, citrus and spice and everything nice!
Slice the lemons and orange into rounds, and add to a large pot with the vinegar, sugar and spices. Cook over medium heat, stir until all the sugar dissolves. Then set aside and cover.
Meanwhile, add the watermelon rinds to another large pot and cover with cold water. Heat over high until it comes to a boil. Let it boil for two minutes and then drain.
Combine the vinegar/sugar/citrus/spice liquid with the watermelon rinds in a large pot. Simmer about 30 minutes until the rinds become translucent and soft. Don’t let them simmer too long or they will turn into a compote mush.
They should feel flexible like this.
Pour it all into jars. I tried to evenly distribute the citrus and spices so each jar would be similarly flavored. Let it sit out on the counter until completely cooled. The larger jars took several hours before they were cool enough for refrigeration.
Let the jars steep/brine in the fridge for a week to soak up the flavors before using.
This is not an instantaneous recipe, in fact it’s more of an exercise in patience. The pickling/brining process takes at least one week. However, through the use of watermelon rinds, I have now scientifically proven the annoying theory that ‘all good things come to those who wait’.
I ate a couple right out of the jar after a week, and they were yummy, sour, and unlike anything else I’ve tried. The flavors had developed very well, so at that point I removed the spices and citrus from the jars.
These would make great appetizers, and I’m going to have fun experimenting with other interesting uses.