Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Watermelon Rind Pickle

Watermelon has been a ritual of summer for me, ever since I was a child. I loved the drama of going to the corner kalingadwallah, first with parents, then later by myself, poking around to find the best looking one, tapping and thumping it, and finally asking the guy to slice off a chunk to see how red it is inside. Perfect at the art of cutting it, he would pierce the knife exactly so as to pull out the center, where the watermelon is the crispest, reddest, and tastiest. How could we complain? After proudly showing us how perfect it was he would snap the cut slice in place again, for us to carry it back home. Then lovingly it would be cut into even wedges, placed in a bowl and refrigerated for a few hours to chill. Something always happened in the fridge, the flavors concentrated and the watermelon got sweeter. It still does. And a watermelon still always brings back these memories for me.

I know many people slice a watermelon with the skin on, and then nibble at the red and throw off the rest. We rarely did that. The rind and peel was always removed and discarded off before eating. The only thing lacking was the tiny forks meant for eating fruit.

Watermelon slices

When I read about watermelon rind used in pickling and cooking in Chinese and Japanese cuisines, I was curious about where else it is used and found that watermelon rind pickles are quite common in America too, particularly in the South. Then, while browsing through 'Usha's Pickle Digest' last year I checked if she had anything on watermelon in her comprehensive book. I found not one, but four recipes for pickling watermelon rind. All of these involved cooking the rind, thereby making them 'instant' or ready to eat. Since I am quite stocked on pickles at the moment, it wasn't something I wanted to try, but the AFAM event provided just the opportunity.

I chose one of the four recipes for which I had all ingredients on hand and the flavors of which appealed to me. I used the recipe as a guideline for the main ingredients but tweaked it heavily otherwise. The result is pretty good, and getting better as it sits. It is supposed to stay good for a month but I don't think it will last that long.

I used the rind of half a large watermelon. After peeling off the green outer skin it was roughly 500 gm.

Watermelon Rind Pickle

Watermelon (rind) pickle

500 gm watermelon rind (the white part between the red flesh and green skin)
1 large shallot (100 gm)
2 teaspoons urad dal
5-6 dried red chilies
pinch of methi (fenugreek) seeds
1 Tablespoon + 5 Tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons salt (or more)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 Tablespoon thick tamarind extract
2 Tablespoons sugar

Chop the watermelon rind and shallots into fine pieces.

In a small skillet, roast the urad dal, chilies, and methi seeds until the seeds start to turn golden brown. Let it cool and powder it completely.

In a large pan, heat a tablespoon of oil, add the mustard seeds, and when they start to pop add the chopped shallot and watermelon rind, and cook it together. Add salt, turmeric, tamarind extract, spice powder, sugar and remaining oil, and cook it on low heat until the rind softens, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick to the pan. [It took me about 25 minutes to get it to this consistency]. Check for salt and add more if needed. Let it cool completely before filling into a jar.

Note: I didn't care much for the taste of shallot in this pickle. If I had to make it again, I would leave it out without altering anything else.


Kelly Mahoney said...

That's so original, thanks for the ideas.

Anjali said...

I had no idea that the rind could be used thus. What does the pickle taste like? Since this has both tamarind and sugar, is it like the sour-sweet lemon pickle that is used in upaas in Maharashtra? yummm...

Asha said...

OMG!!! That is so good.Great idea,we always throw away so many rinds.Thanks for this girl:))

Desiknitter said...

ET, you must read Gauri Deshpande's short story "Kalingad". Your description of the visit to the seller brought it to mind immediately, you might like it. I'll get it for you when I get back..
This pickle sounds great, I had never thought of pickling the rind.

Vee said...

ET, what does it taste like? Though it sounds intriguing, I am kind of imagining 'dudhi' in pickle masala taste. Does it taste like that?

TBC said...

That's such a great idea.I never knew that the rind could be pickled.

Pacchai Milagai said...

would'n t be bitter? seems like a great idea. My chinese friend told me that the watermelon rind is really good for healing mouth ulcers.. she has this spray she lent me once which was made from watermelon rind..

musical said...

Thats unique! and a must try on my list now :).

Priyanka said...

ET, thats so creative and yummy to boot... am bookmarking it.

evolvingtastes said...

Anjali, the sugar was my own addition. This pickle is neither too sweet or sour, and actually quite different from the upaasache lonche (which I know you like!). The watermelon rind adds a certain sour taste, but the predominant taste comes from the spices. I am not sure why it called to add powdered urad dal, which is not a common addition in pickles and also think that this could be pickled with just regular 'pickle masala' too.

desiknitter, that story must be good if you recommend it. My marathi reading is getting rustier by the day (should go hide somewhere), but I'll borrow it from you when you get back!

Vee, your imagination is not far off, especially initially, it was similar to dudhi in texture, but it softened in a day or two. The taste is rind-y, but only as an undertone. So no, it doesn't taste like dudhi, but on jugalbandi, jai and bee have used watermelon rind in three dishes that are typically made with dudhi.

Pacchai Milagai, it is not bitter. I did not know about its properties for curing ulcers, wow.

Kelly, Asha, tbc, musical, priyanka, thanks for visiting and leaving your comments!

bee said...

thanks for participating. this is a unique recipe. we have one watermelon growing. will try it when we harvest it. see you at the roundup --Jai

evolvingtastes said...

Sure Jai, good luck with the roundup.

Pickwick said...

Oh my, I never thought to do anything savory like this with the rind. My father is from the midwestern U.S., and his mother's 120 year old recipe for watermelon rind pickles goes thus:

rind of one large watermelon, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
water to cover
3/4 cup kosher pickling salt

8 C sugar
4 C white vinegar
5 cinnamon sticks, broken
2 T whole cloves

You gotta let the top 3 things rest overnight, then rinse twice and boil the melon until it's almost tender, then drain and combine it with the rest until it's transparent. Then, can according to canner directions. That's the American watermelon pickle recipe, by and large.

I'm trying yours next time I get a melon, but I'd like to can it. Perhaps I'll simply reduce cooking time and add some alum to keep them from becoming mushy with the added heat of canning.

Thanks for the recipe!

evolvingtastes said...

Pickwick, thanks for sharing your recipe. Sounds lovely.

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