Sour Patch Rinds· GF (about a quart)
Having written about peach pits and the joys of using up unexpected kitchen scraps to create new and delicious things, I have to tell you about watermelon rinds; specifically, how much I love them. My love for them transcends my two biggest adulthood food phobias, watermelons and pickled foods.
I unilaterally hate melons and reserve my most lip-curling disdain for watermelons, which have all the sweetness and flavor of a diet Snapple. Juicy yet mealy? No thanks. The only thing that causes my gag reflex to kick in harder would be a pickle. Yeah, I’m a real party pooper at picnics. Even so, pickled + watermelon rinds = crazy delicious (much like Mr. Pibb and Red Vines).
We can’t help but think of savory things when we hear the world “pickled”, but there isn’t anything savory about these. They have a refreshing bite of sweet and sour spiciness with notes of vanilla and licorice. They taste like fancy, grown up Sour Patch Kids.
If you have a thing for sour foods, you may end up eating a lot of these, but they’re better as a garnish than a dessert of their own. Their sweet, tart flavor cuts through the richness of fatty desserts but also works well anywhere you might otherwise use fresh fruit, like in a fruit tart or cheesecake.
Stored in the fridge, they’ll keep almost indefinitely thanks to all the acid and sugar, so you can put a jar of summer sunshine away for later in the year.
Mix and match spices, using what you’ve got in the pantry or follow my lead with the combo suggested below. The pink peppercorns add a floral spiciness and the Szechuan pepper’s tongue numbing properties make the sour tingle even more fun.
Sour Patch Watermelon Rinds
1 quart apple cider vinegar
2 pounds sugar
4 whole star anise
2 Tbsp pink peppercorns
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
3, 3” pieces of sassafras bark (optional)
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 medium watermelon
Scrub the orange and lemons, then slice into 1/4” thick rounds. Discard the stem ends and any seeds.
In a medium pot, combine the cider vinegar, sugar, anise, peppercorns, sassafras, vanilla pod and seeds, and citrus slices. Set the mixture over a medium flame and heat until the sugar dissolves. Stir occasionally to ensure no patches of undissolved sugar lurk at the bottom. Whenever the sugar dissolves, shut off the heat, cover, and set aside to steep until needed.
Meanwhile, cut the watermelon into quarters or otherwise manageable chunks. Cut out the flesh and reserve for another use. Use a spoon to scrape away all traces of the fruit from the white part of the rind. Next, use a vegetable peeler to peel away the thick green skin from the outside.
If you’re feeling utilitarian, simply cut the rind into strips or evenly sized chunks. That’s massively boring. You should instead find some sort of small cookie cutter and cut out little shapes, about 1” wide. After cutting, discard any scrap pieces of rind.
Put the watermelon rind pieces into an empty pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Let it boil for two minutes, then drain.
Add the “blanched” watermelon rind to the pot containing the sugar/vinegar mixture. Return to the stove and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the watermelon rind turns translucent and tender. The exact time will depend on the thickness of the rind, but 30 minutes would be a good place to start. After that point, keep a close eye on the rinds and cool only until al dente. Simmered too long they will get rubbery and go to mush.
Once the rinds are tender, shut off the heat and ladle the whole shebang, rind, citrus slices, vanilla bean, and assorted spices, into a quart jar. Fill it with as much of the vinegar mixture as you can, discarding the rest (if you come up with a clever way to use this flavorful sugar/vinegar mixture, let me know!).
Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then put on the lid and refrigerate.
Let the watermelon rind steep in the brine for at least a week before eating. If you like, fish out the spices after a week to halt the flavor development.
Serve cold, as a garnish. They’re particularly rad over pink peppercorn ice cream.
Jun 10, 2011 · 9:44 AM
next time I buy watermelon (ASAP), I’m DEFINITELY not chucking the rind. this recipe is next! Thank you so much for sharing your recipe, Stella. Ever since the tweet-up, I’ve been curious!
Jun 10, 2011 · 7:41 PM
Evan, keep me posted! Don’t be afraid to vary the spices with what you have, etc. To me, the only crucial components are the citrus, vanilla, and pink peppercorns. (Though I am especially partial to this particular blend…
Jun 18, 2011 · 7:58 AM
Hi Stella! As as child I had read about candied watermelon rind from my mother’s preserving fruit book: cookbooks and such made up my bedtime storybooks. I’ve never been compelled to make them though, until now. It’s the rainy season where I’m from (the Philippines) but when I do find a watermelon I’ll try making this. Thanks!
Jun 18, 2011 · 1:47 PM
@gretchen, sounds like a great way to fall asleep! The only people I know who are familiar with candied watermelon rind (known as “sweet watermelon pickles” where I’m from, although this name sounds misleading) are from my grandparents’ generation. I guess those were simpler times and people needed to make the most of their watermelon and save some for a sweet treat later in the year. I wish we hadn’t lost that culinary cleverness. Hope you find a watermelon soon enough.
Aug 22, 2012 · 9:28 AM
wow, burn.n.nina, you’re fast!! I can’t believe you made ‘em already, haha! I haven’t tried to candy the lemon and orange in this particular recipe (since they get so heavily flavored from the spices), but I do loooooove candied citrus.
Aug 22, 2012 · 12:32 PM
I’ve been meaning to make pickled watermelon rind but haven’t gotten around to it. After seeing your stars, I will definitely do before the end of the summer.
BTW, I LOVE using my left over pickled fruit syrup for cocktails… usually with rum.
· Kristen · http://serendipityspreads.com
Aug 22, 2012 · 6:53 PM
@Vanessa, ahhh!!! that’s so genius. Yes, yes, yes! I’ll have to see if our bartender can use up the extra vinegar to make something fun, maybe I can share his recipe.
@Kristen, another vote for boozin’ it up, I love it. I’m impressed it was already on your to-do list, you’ll have to let me know what you think after you try ‘em out.
@dawn, haha, I’m the same way! I make pickled jalapenos and pickled red onions for my husband every year, and loving making them, but I’m still really iffy on eating them myself (although with tacos, they are pretty tasty). I think these will knock your socks off, so unexpectedly delicious and sweet.
Aug 23, 2012 · 9:05 AM
This is so clever and I’ve never made anything like these! I’d love to make them with my neices and nephews – they’d go wild with colors and shapes!
· Julia Mueller · http://www.roastedrootfood.com
Aug 25, 2012 · 6:22 PM
@Julia, ooh, have fun! You could portion the rinds out into small half pint jars and dye each one a different color with food coloring. I’m sure after a week, they’d take on an extraordinary color!
Aug 30, 2012 · 1:41 PM
I saw this the other day and ended up saving all of the scrap rinds from our watermelon salad at work. I did this soon after and I must say…. they. are. amazing. Thank you! =)
· Peggy · http://feedingandy.blogspot.com
Aug 30, 2012 · 9:53 PM
OMG, Peggy, that makes my day! I thought for sure no one would try a recipe this “weird” and I have been so amazed whenever someone gives it a shot. I’m glad you saved those scraps!! Well, the big question: what did Andy think?!
Aug 31, 2012 · 2:33 PM
The weirder the better, that’s what I always say!
I’m definitely trying this…
Aug 31, 2012 · 4:40 PM
I love the idea of using everything! I loved the peach pit information, and the same goes here, as well. This looks so interesting! It would be so much fun to make a plate of these and present them at a dinner party. It would be an amazing treat and a conversation in one! Thank you for sharing!
· Rachel · http://lifeinbatches.com
Aug 31, 2012 · 11:14 PM
@meg, ahh! Woman after my own heart! Thanks for coming out of the woodwork, I feel so validated in my weirdness.
@Rachel, yeah, finding secret desserts hidden in the stuff we think of as trash is one of my favorite things ever. Speaking of dinner parties, these also make GREAT garnishes for cocktails, skewer them with little bits of bamboo and into your whiskey sour they go!
Sep 02, 2012 · 5:48 PM
So cool! :0)
· Lisa · http://www.unitedcakedom.com
Sep 03, 2012 · 7:18 PM
@Lisa, awww, thanks!
Sep 16, 2012 · 12:52 PM
Hi Tee! It’s really miraculous how these two food-hates of mine come together into something I enjoy. For me, enjoying these rinds hinges on their pairing. Some people like to just eat them, but I need something to go with them. I love, love, love them with ice cream. That sour, tart, fatty, creamy combo appeals to me a lot. You’ll have to report back if you try these out!
Oct 19, 2012 · 8:33 AM
I love this idea, not something I’ve ever tried making but would love to try them.
· All That I'm Eating · http://allthatimeating.blogspot.com
Oct 19, 2012 · 9:45 AM
@All That I’m Eating, they were a huge surprise for me, I hope they’ll pleasantly surprise you too.