With the end of the school year and summer at the doorstep I am filled with nostalgia for scenes like this.
Watermelon is my most favorite fruit for so many reasons. Growing up, the sight of watermelon trucks along the I-10 as we passed through Mississippi and Alabama on our annual summer pilgrimage to Florida, brought guarantees of plenty of time at the beach, crates of fresh Florida mangoes and avocadoes (which weren’t available in Louisiana back then) and not having to put on a single shoe for at least three months.
Some of my fondest summertime memories involved us kids, stripped down to next to nothing and a colossal ice-cold watermelon in the backyard. After a ridiculously messy and sticky feast, which always included a good ol’ seed-spitting contest and the occasional sprinkle of salt, my Mama would bust out the hose and simply spray us all down.
My only regret back then was not being able to eat the entire thing, rind, seeds and all. Munching down to the white part of the rind where the sugars ran out always came with a little bit of a letdown. For that reason alone, being able to pickle the rinds and use up practically the entire fruit brings a deep, deep satisfaction to me today.
When I first opened Brenda’s I really wanted to serve something pickled with every sandwich and originally created Bread & Butter pickles using traditional pickling cucumbers. Unfortunately pickling cucumbers are not always available in San Francisco, but watermelons almost always are. Factor in that we sell a ton of our house Watermelon Tea, and pickling all of that leftover rind just made too much sense. In addition to our sandwiches we also serve these with our Smoked Pork Rillettes, but you could and should definitely serve them whenever a good pickles is called for, or even just on their own.
At the restaurant we just use a quick pickling method since we go through them so fast, but I would definitely recommend canning whatever you can’t eat right away.
This is our basic bread and butter pickle recipe. It should make enough pickle brine for about 3 LB cleaned and sliced watermelon rind or sliced cucumber.
Into a medium saucepan stir together all ingredients, except onion, and bring to a simmer.
3 C Water
3 C White Vinegar
1/2 C Kosher Salt
2 1/2 C Sugar
1 Tb Chile Flake
½ Cinnamon Stick
12 Whole Cloves
2 Each Bay Leaves
1 TSP Whole Black Peppercorns
½ Yellow Onion, Julienne
Toss sliced rind with onion and place into a container large enough to hold rinds and liquid. Pour hot brine over rinds, place a plate over rinds to fully submerge them and place in refrigerator. Pickles are ready to eat the next day.
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