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Pickled Watermelon Rind with Lemon, Ginger and Spices


My friend Rick has a remarkable urban vegetable garden and small orchard. Recently I left his home with two beautiful spaghetti squash and a gorgeous plump, sweet baby watermelon. Determined to make the most of these homegrown gifts, I embarked on intensive historical culinary research. The following recipe represents a combination of techniques and ideas spanning centuries, gleaned from multiple sources.  The suggestion to prepare and process slowly over the course of several days came from renowned canners Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard.  This recipe creates a hybrid type of candied pickle, as the slow-go process creates very firm glacé-like, piquant rind and citrus peel.  Very unique and extraordinarily delicious. Be sure to showcase when serving, paired as-is with really fine cheese; diced alongside lovely poached chicken; or minced fine atop a perfectly folded sliver of smoked salmon on rye.  Most definitely, the ultimate hostess gift from your kitchen.

  • 1 firm-skinned ripe watermelon about 11" or 12" in diameter. The weight is irrelevant as the goal is to produce volume - approximately 10 cups of peeled rind cut into small pieces.
  • 3 organic lemons
  • 2 ounces peeled fresh ginger (frozen for easy slicing)
  • 3/4 cup (178 ml) natural sea, coarse or pickling salt (not table salt)
  • 5 cups (1185 ml) white or natural sugar
  • 3 cups (710 ml) white, light cider, or white wine vinegar
  • 10 cups (2370 ml) water
  • 12 whole star anise pods
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) whole allspice
  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) beet juice concentrate for rosy coloured syrup (optional)

# of Servings

6 quarts

Cook Time (min)


Difficulty Rating


Preparation Time (min)

90 over 4 days


Prepare the watermelon rind by quartering the melon, then slicing into 3/4" (19mm) pieces.  Remove pulp and use right away or freeze for later use in smoothies or sorbet.  Trim pink from rind and then peel all of the green outer skin from the light green and white middle layer.  A finely serrated vegetable peeler works much better than a straight edge peeler or knife.  Cut the peeled strips into 3/4" (19mm) lengths.  Dissolve the salt in a cup of warm water, then add liquid to the remaining 4 cups of water/  Place the 10 cups of prepared rind in a ceramic, glass or stainless steel bowl and tip the brine in to cover completely. Covering the rind with a plate to fully submerge the rind is a good idea.  Let rest for about 8 hours.

pickled watermelon rind recipe how-to 1 600w

Drain the brine from the rind and discard or use for another purpose.  Rinse the rinds several times in clean water, letting rest for several minute between changes.  Place the rinsed rinds in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until 'just' tender when poked with the tip of  a knife.  Remove from heat and drain, rinsing in cold water to arrest cooking. Tip the rind back into your bowl and set aside.

Slice the lemons thinly, removing pips as you go.  Carefully slice the peeled frozen ginger lengthwise into fingers, then slice crosswise into small, thin coins.  In a medium enamel or stainless steel saucepan, combine 2.5 cups (590 ml) of the sugar, all of the vinegar, the ginger and the spices. Bring to a boil slowly, just until sugar has dissolved completely.  Pour the hot mixture over the rind in the bowl, covering completely. 

pickled watermelon rind recipe how-to 2 600w

Place a weighted plate on top to ensure that the rind is completely submerged.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a cool place for an entire day.

The next day, remove the rind from the liquid with a slotted spoon and set in a separate stainless steel or glass bowl.  Tip the liquid into your saucepan, add 1 1/4 cups (295 ml) of the sugar and boil just until dissolved.  Replace the weighted plate, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a cool place for another entire day.

pickled watermelon rind recipe how-to 3 600w

The next day, remove the rind from the liquid with a slotted spoon and set in a separate stainless steel or glass bowl.  Tip the liquid into your saucepan, add the final 1 1/4 cups (295 ml) of the sugar and boil just until dissolved.  Add the rind back to the saucepan and return 'just' to boiling. Remove from heat and if using, stir in the beet juice for colour.

Spoon the rind into hot sterilized quart (6 x 500 ml) jars and top up with hot liquid to within 1/2" (1.3 cm) of the rim, dividing whole spices equally among the jars. Locate the spices midway down and against the glass, for attractive presentation. To ensure a tight seal, wipe jar rims clean with a clean cloth dipped in boiling water.  Place sealing discs on jars, hand-tighten screw caps, and process jars in boiling water for 15 minutes.  Pint jars (250 ml) jars may be processed for 10 minutes.   When time is up, turn off heat and leave jars underwater with lid off for 10 minutes.  Remove jars from water with tongs and set on a wire rack to cool.  Leave undisturbed for 24 hours, then check that the sealing disks are slightly concave, indicating a successful seal.  If any jars did not seal successfully, store them in the fridge and use the contents within two weeks.

This recipe makes six quart, or 12 pint jars of pickled watermelon rind.

Always check Canada's Home Canning Safety Recommendations for best practices updates before proceeding with this or any home preserving or home canning project.

Submitted by:

Chef at Hand Kitchen