Food & Drink

How to Make Watermelon Rind Pickles

A Nashville chef blends two traditions in his take on the summer treat

photo: Michael Sati


Andy Little is a storyteller. You won’t read his tales in a book or hear them around a campfire, though. Instead, you can taste them—the executive chef at Josephine in Nashville, Tennessee, lets his dishes do the talking.

“The restaurants that I really, really love are the ones where you know that there’s a personality behind the menu,” Little says. “It’s a story being played out in the food.”

Born and raised near Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Little started working as a waiter to pay for his studies at the Culinary Institute of America, but quickly worked his way from the front to the back of the house. He had stints in the kitchens of Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. restaurants, before making his way to Nashville. In his five years at Josephine, Little has crafted a menu that showcases a blend of his Mid-Atlantic roots and his love for Southern cooking.

“I want our customers to think, ‘Yep—somebody in that kitchen is from Pennsylvania, but now he lives in the South, and what an interesting menu,’” he says. “I’m trying to form a direct line from where I’m from and where I am.”

Little’s pickled watermelon rinds are the perfect tie between his past and his present. His recipe hasn’t strayed far from his great-aunt’s Thanksgiving table, where he was first introduced to the dish as a child. He keeps it simple, using flavoring ingredients like bay leaves, cloves, and mustard seeds that you likely already have in your pantry. “I’ve messed with it too many times, but I always go back to her original recipe,” he says. “I want to be able to drill down into the root of the flavor.”

For a sweet summer treat, add a spoonful of the freshly-made pickles to charcuterie and cheese boards. Store the rest for a tasty cranberry sauce substitute when Thanksgiving rolls around.


Ingredients

    • 8 cups watermelon rind, peeled and sliced in cubes

    • 6 cups water, divided

    • 1 cup kosher salt

    • 4 cups sugar

    • 2 cups rice wine vinegar

    • 8 cinnamon sticks, plus fresh sticks for each jar

    • 1 tsp. cloves

    • 1 tsp. peppercorns

    • 1 tsp. bay leaves

    • 1 tsp. mustard seeds

    • 1 lemon sliced into rounds


Preparation

  1. Peel the outside, green layer of the rind. Then, cut the rinds into bite-size pieces. (Tip: Try to cut the pieces in a consistent size to ensure that the rinds will cook at the same rate.)

  2. In a large bowl, dissolve the salt in four cups of warm water and place the rinds in the salt water. Cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight. The following day, rinse the rinds and pat them dry.

  3. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, two cups of water, rice wine vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, mustard seeds, and lemon slices. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the rinds to the liquid. Simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until the rind is translucent and tender. (Tip: If you can stick a fork in the rind, it’s ready.) Remove the cinnamon sticks.

  4. Clean and prepare wide-mouth Mason jars. Pour the hot mixture into the Mason jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace in each jar. Place a fresh cinnamon stick into each jar. Wipe tops clean, cap with lids and bands. Process for canning or keep fresh in the refrigerator. The rinds will last for approximately a month if refrigerated.


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