I first tried watermelon pickles when we first moved to Georgia. We spent the day in Atlanta and ended up at Pitty Pat’s Porch, a touristy restaurant that served classic Southern fair like greens, black eyed peas, grits, and fried green tomatoes.
One thing that stood out were the watermelon rind pickles. I had no idea you could make pickles from watermelon rinds, something I’d normally throw out! I went back to the salad bar for several helpings, and vowed that I would make them some day.
Making a watermelon rind pickles recipe is a easy way to preserve summer, especially since this recipe is so easy since it’s not a traditional canning recipe. You’re just boiling the rinds to “pickle” them. No need for fancy equipment except for a few Mason jars to store the pickles in fridge.
Chop up the spicy watermelon pickles to make relish for burgers, hot dogs, and egg salad sandwiches. Or turn the best watermelon pickles you’ve ever tried into a chutney for grilled chicken and Crock Pot Ham with Gluten Free Beer and Chutney Glaze.
A warning when making the best watermelon rind pickles recipe
I’ve found that many watermelon pickles recipes, including those that feature spicy ingredients like peppers and ginger, include pink peppercorns (or rainbow medley peppercorns which may have pink peppercorns in the mix).
If you are allergic to nuts or have a nut allergic child, you should avoid pink peppercorns. Pink peppercorns are related to cashews and pistachios and can cause an anaphylactic reaction in those who are allergic to these nuts. You can read about this in a synopsis of the paper, A Rare Case of Food-induced Anaphylaxis to Pink Peppercorns, here.
Since my daughter has a nut allergy, I only used black peppercorns.
This Mama’s tips to make spicy watermelon pickles
When peeling watermelon, I found that it’s easiest to do it before cutting up the watermelon. In addition, you may find that your vegetable peeler won’t work depending on how it’s shaped, the length of the blade, and how big your watermelon is.
Of all the watermelon rind pickles recipes out there, the National Watermelon Promotion Board’s method was the easiest to follow. I simplified it further, used less sugar, and cooled the watermelon rind pickles on the counter top before placing it refrigerator to prevent crystallization.
Finally, when handling habanero peppers, be careful not to touch the seeds, and make sure wash the cutting board, knife and your hands thoroughly after handling the peppers!
Best Watermelon Rind Pickles
- 8 cups water
- 2 tablespoons pickling salt or Kosher salt
- 5 cups peeled watermelon rind (leave a thin layer of pink), cut into 1 x 1 inch pieces
- 1 cup organic sugar
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 12 whole cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon pickling spice
- 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced thinly
- 2 star anise pods
- 1/4 to 1/2 habanero pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
- In a large pot over high heat, bring water and pickling salt to a boil. Add watermelon rind and boil for 5 minutes until tender.
- Strain in a colander. Keep watermelon rind pieces in the colander so any remaining salt water will drain off.
- In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, rice vinegar, black peppercorns, cloves, pickling spice, sliced ginger, and habanero pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 15 minutes, until slightly reduced.
- Place watermelon rinds in a large mason jar (or two smaller mason jars if that’s all you have). Pour liquid over rinds and let cool on counter top until liquid is at room temperature. (If you stick the hot pickles in the refrigerator, the sugar in the liquid may crystalize.)
- After the liquid has cooled, screw on the lids and refrigerate. Pickles can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- Serving size: As many pickles as you’d like to eat!
Originally posted on September 15, 2014. Updated with new pictures and information.