Watermelon Rind Pickle Recipe

Sweet, sour and oh-so-Southern. Put those watermelon rinds to good use with this classic recipe.

Watermelon Rind Pickles

Watermelon Rind Pickles

Watermelon rind pickles are a sweet and sour pickle with a long tradition.

Photo by: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo by Mick Telkamp

Watermelon rind pickles are a sweet and sour pickle with a long tradition.

Sweet and syrupy with a tang that makes all things pickled worth doing, watermelon rind pickles are an old-timey tradition in the South. Using rinds normally bound for the compost heap, this classic is a great example of the historic Southern “waste nothing” attitude, but unlike chitlins, this is one instance of kitchen-thrift I can get behind. Soaked in salt water and then cooked in a syrup of sugar, vinegar and choice spices, watermelon rinds are transformed from a flavorless byproduct into a shockingly flavorful pickle. 

If you are a dyed-in-the-wool salty dill pickle fan, this one may not be for you, but for others, the sugary-sweet and sour profile of watermelon rind pickles makes them a treat that may become a summer habit. Like pickled peaches, watermelon rind pickles work eaten straight from the jar, as a sandwich condiment, added to salads or paired with charcuterie, but will also satisfy the pickle lover’s sweet tooth when spooned over ice cream or pound cake. 

Soaking the rinds in a salt brine turn this recipe into a two-day job, but for those who know and embrace this all-but-forgotten pickle, it is a labor of love. For everyone else, it’s worth trying and will make you seem like a true homesteader when you show up with a jar or two at your next potluck, picnic or block party.

Watermelon Rind Pickles

Yield: About 3 pints

  • 4 pounds watermelon rinds
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 quart ice cubes
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 lemon

Prepare rinds by cutting up watermelon, trimming rinds from pink flesh and removing skin. 

Slice rinds into 1- to 2 inch lengths and place in a large bowl with a quart of ice cubes.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup salt over the rinds, then fill the dish with water.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 4 hours to overnight.

Drain and rinse rinds.

Combine 5 cups sugar, 2 cups water, 2 cups white vinegar, 1 tablespoon cloves and 2 cinnamon sticks in a large, nonreactive pot and bring syrup to boil over high heat.

Cut lemon into very thin slices and add to pot.

Add rinds to pot and return to boil.

Reduce to medium heat to simmer until rinds become soft and translucent (about 45 minutes).

Ladle rinds into 3 sterile pint jars and cover with syrup, leaving 1/2-inch of head space.

Cap with new lids and sterile bands.

Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes, transfer to counter to cool.

Lids should make a popping sound when cooling to indicate a good seal.

Store in a cool, dry location for up to 1 year. Refrigerate after opening.

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