Bon Appétit (August 2014)
Five years ago this week, we published a recipe for Pickled Watermelon Rind.
If you're not famliar with watermelon pickles, we don't blame you.
In the expanse of food writing, Pickled Watermelon Rind is widely described as a Southern delicacy. Is it so much that it's a delicacy, or that our Southern grandmamas and great-grandmamas were so poor that they had no choice but to find something to do with watermelon rinds. Delicacy, necessity, maybe a bit of both?
Our take on the Pickled Watermelon Rind five years ago used cinnamon, cloves, and allspice to flavor a standard pickling liquid (salt, sugar, vinegar, water). We even processed the jars, which meant that we had Pickled Watermelon Rind on hand for years to trot out as a party trick.
A year after we first made the dish, we served our watermelon pickles with a Spicy Pork Loin. Three years later, in 2013, we served what was left of our pickles at a dinner party featuring Momofuku's Bo Ssam. (Nudge: Start planning your autumn Bo Ssam party now. You will be heralded as hero/role model/mythical creature after serving this dish.)
Well, we're now all out of our original pickled watermelon rind. And this August we've been buying watermelons at the market to nosh on every chance we get. When we saw that Bon Appétit's latest issue included a recipe for Pickled Watermelon Rind, we figured it was time to get back to pickling.
This recipe differs from our original recipe from five years ago in a few ways: Our pickles were incredibly sweet, as are most watermelon rind pickles. (If you want to try these pickles but aren't feeling up to making them, you can often find them at supermarkets. At the grocery store in our neighborhood, they're near the jams.) Also, our recipe was designed for canning, meaning that you could stash your pickles away in the cupboard to eat later. This recipe, on the other hand, makes pickles that can be refrigerated for two weeks.
And then there's the flavor:
In a nice and wonderful twist on Watermelon Rind Pickles, this recipe flavors its pickling brine with serrano chile, fresh ginger, and star anise; it also uses rice vinegar in place of plain white vinegar. As a result, this ain't your Southern granny's pickled watermelon (unless maybe your Southern granny happened to be Asian).
These flavors make for amazing Pickled Watermelon Rind. They're hot and sweet, vibrant and sharp. The serrano gives a nice heat that's not overwhelming. The ginger is bold and hot in its own way. The vinegar and sugar combine to mellow everything out appropriately. And the star anise, well, it's certainly pretty in the jar, isn't it?
We highly recommend that you make these Pickled Watermelon Rind. Or if you want a sweet pickle, go back in time with us and make our first take on these.
And later this week, we'll share with you an amazing new way use Pickled Watermelon Rind.
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(This photo: Gentl & Hyers for Bon Appetit)
Servings: makes about 1 quart
4 pounds watermelon
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced, seeds removed if desired
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
Using a vegetable peeler, remove tough green rind from watermelon; discard.
Slice watermelon 1" thick. 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 tender, about 5 minutes. 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; cover and chill at least 12 hours.
DO AHEAD: Watermelon rind can be pickled 2 weeks ahead. Keep chilled.