As I have mentioned before my wife grew up in the Pennsylvania Dutch area of Pennsylvania so Pennsylvania Dutch food was part of her childhood. She claimed that this type of pickle was served everywhere including school lunches. So, to my surprise, my task was to remove the outermost hard green skin and leave just the white of the rind and maybe a little of the pink from the fruit. (My wife told me that there is controversy about whether or not to leave any red of the fruit. We decided to leave the red.) It was not as easy as you think to remove just the green skin from the rind of a watermelon, but I used a technique similar to skinning the filet of fish.
After consulting a few Pennsylvania Dutch cook books, she decided on one of the recipes from a 30 year old cookbook called “Pennsylvania Dutch People’s Cookbook”.
I served her watermelon rind pickles with chicken salad (made from chicken hot smoked in the Weber). I served the pickles with watermelon and corn and black bean salad using the new plate/bowl combination we acquired on our recent visit to New York.
My wife took over from here.
Watermelon Rind: 2 pounds of prepared rind with dark green skin removed. Dissolve 1/2 cup of salt in 2 quarts of water. Add the rind to the brine, cover and let stand overnight. (First picture below). Next day drain off the salt water. Put the rind in a sauce pan and cover with fresh water. Cook until the rind is just tender when pierced with a fork. Take off heat and let stand for several hours. Drain thoroughly.
Put all the syrup ingredients in sauce pan (the recipe calls for putting the spices into a cheesecloth. I just add them loose to the pan). Boil the vinegar spice mixture uncovered stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Then add the drained rind and cook gently until the rind becomes transparent. (picture below).
My wife did not can the pickles but used them as “refrigerator” pickles so when they cooled she put them in a plastic container in the refrigerator.
My wife pointed out that the recipe called for the spices to be removed after the pickles were cooked. She chose to leave the spices in the syrup. The longer they are in the syrup the more intense the flavor becomes. As a compromise my wife made a second batch but this time immediately removed the cloves. She also used regular rice vinegar rather than sushi vinegar (the regular rice vinegar does not have the sugar the sushi vinegar has). I found these pickles much more tolerable. So should you decide to make these pickles, keep in mind you can adjust the intensity of their flavor by how long the spices remain in the syrup.
As a comparison, my wife found the commercial watermelon rind pickles (picture above). I was amazed you could get a commercial product. Although it looks very similar and texture is the same as my wife's, there is no comparison. The commercial one is just sweet and sour without any taste of spices.
Meanwhile my wife has been looking up other recipes for watermelon pickles on the internet. She found several using different combinations of spices…I’m afraid we will be seeing more of this.