Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tutu's Watermelon Rind Pickles

(Recipe adapted from Rowene Erman's family recipe.)

True, these are Southern classics, and this blog is supposed to be about unusual, modern pickles. By updating the recipe and offering atypical serving suggestions, I'm going to let this one slide.

Don't be intimidated by the three-day process; these pickles require minimal effort overall. The spices are merely suggestions--feel free to omit all but the cinnamon and ginger, which really make these pickles sing.

Chef Mark Spangenthal incorporates watermelon rind pickles into a dish of seared foie gras with sauteed peaches. Park Kitchen in Portland, Oregon serves an appetizer of pickled watermelon, roasted beets, and goat cheese, drizzled with good olive oil.

I plan to serve them with crispy, fried pancetta slices and manchego cheese in the fall. Or maybe I'll wrap slices of Oscar's bacon around them and bake like a Spanish tapa until the sugars caramelize the bacon. Spears may even end up in a gin martini or two...

4 lb. watermelon
1 Qt. water
2 Tbs. kosher salt
2 cups cider or Champagne vinegar
2 cups sugar
3-inch piece of ginger, peeled
3 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick (use Ceylon if you can find it)
4 whole cloves
1/2 star anise
1/2 nutmeg pod
1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
1/4 tsp. black or pink peppercorns

Day One
1. Cut watermelon into quarters and scoop out flesh, leaving 1/4 inch of red flesh for color. Cut into 2 inch x 1/2 inch batons and peel off green skin with a paring knife or vegetable peeler.
2. Combine water and salt and submerge watermelon batons with a plate and refrigerate overnight.

Day Two
1. Strain rinds and rinse with cold water.
2. Bring vinegar, sugar, spices, and ginger to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add rinds to syrup and return to a boil. Simmer rinds in syrup for 30 minutes, then allow rinds to steep in syrup, submerged with a plate, in the refrigerator overnight.

Day Three
1. With a slotted spoon, transfer rind to sterilized canning jars (# of jars will depend on how much rind you yield).
2. Bring syrup to a boil, and pour over rinds, leaving 1/2 inch space.
3. Process in a boiler for 10 minutes. Pickles can also be refrigerated for two weeks before eating.