This month I saw all my lovely blogger friends who are Daring Cooks producing cute little jars of apple and peach butter as part of this month's challenge focused on food preservation. I have to say, this is definitely one month when I wished to be part of Daring Cooks since I love pickling and making preserves! Even though I am not a member of this adventurous group, I do make my share of challenging and unique recipes, and I thought I would springboard off their challenge and share my latest pickling experience with you and ask for some suggestions.
I found this recipe for pickled watermelon rind in Think Like a Chef by Tom Colicchio and I was drawn to it like a magnet. (Don't ask why because I have no idea. Maybe it had something to do with my hesitation to throw away all that pretty green rind. Or, maybe I just like any recipe with the word pickle.) The recipe seemed simple enough, and I thought it would be an interesting condiment to use with a summer fish dish or possibly in a relish.
I couldn't resist this.
I gathered together all the spices used for pickling, and I was excited to see that it also called for cardamom seeds, which seem to be a rarity in most recipes. Altogether, the aromatics included peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander, fennel, and cardamom, and they smelled wonderful when they were boiling away on the stove.
As I mentioned before, the recipe was so simple that you basically just get the brine boiling, pour it over the cubed watermelon rind, and let it sit in the fridge for 2 weeks. For those experienced picklers reading this, I can tell you that I was a little skeptical that the rind would soften enough during the pickling without boiling the watermelon rind itself, but, like any good experiment, I just had to wait and see what the results would be.
After 2 weeks, I pulled out my jar and tried a bite. Hmm... It was definitely not totally 'pickled' and still had almost too much crunch to be palatable. As for flavor, I could definitely taste the depth of the fennel and cardamom, but I figured I would give them another week or so to get the right texture.
Fast forward to this weekend: Now that it had been a solid 3 weeks since I initially bottled the watermelon rind, I took it out again for a taste test. I have to say that they still seemed a little tough around the edges, but definitely tasted interesting, and had a perfect flavor profile for fall-inspired dishes.
So now, I have a few questions for you, my friends. Those in the know about pickling, can you tell me: Are you supposed to cut off the outermost, waxy green portion of the rind and only eat the whitish flesh? And as a challenge for creativity: What should I use this watermelon rind for? A meat dish? Relish? Any suggestions?
While I wait for some of your ideas, I will just sneak a few of these pickled treats for a quick crunchy snack.
Pickled Watermelon Rind
From Think Like a Chef, by Tom Colicchio
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 tbsp coriander seed
1 tbsp fennel seed
1 tbsp cardamom seed
1/4 cup sugar
2 garlic cloves, smashed
3 cups white wine vinegar
Watermelon rind, from half a watermelon, cut into cubes
Combine all the ingredients, except for watermelon, in a pot and add 2 cups additional water; bring to a boil. Meanwhile, put all the watermelon into a large jar. Once the brine is boiling, pour it over the watermelon, cover or seal the jar, and place the jar in the refrigerator for at least 3 weeks. Store in the refrigerator and use as needed, or eat for a snack.