Pickled watermelon is truly delicious and I do not mean just watermelon rind pickle, I mean the whole thing, rind and flesh of the watermelon. Simply sliced and put in a jar for pickling. It's divine and best served with ... almost anything apart from soups and desserts. Haha, just try me.
The texture of this pickled watermelon is something you will definitely enjoy and the reason for that is because it is so unique! The flavour too! Just try it and if you are a pickle-head like myself, you will definitely enjoy this with any pilaf or any fried meat or BBQ.
Eastern Europeans (Russian, Romanians and all the Slavic countries) love their pickles. Fermented foods can aid digestion and help with good gut bacteria, particularly good when eating rich and hearty foods to complement staple bland foods like bread, rice and potatoes.
Like many great culinary traditions, pickling practice and preserving were a necessity. The fresh fruit and vegetable season is relatively short-lived so preserving as much as possible produce (pickles, jams, casseroles (zacusca) became essential to preserve freshly harvested produce for the dark, ugly and cold winter season. Historically, most food preservation was made using salt to pickle using natural fermentation process as opposed to vinegar-based pickling resulting in pickles that were less sour or acidic.
Pickled watermelon origins
Pickled watermelon has is fairly unique and has a distinctive flavour. Historically was a winter season product made by German immigrants in Russia. They used to pickle the whole watermelons in wooden barrels. When the jars were invented, they were pickling just the red part (the flesh) of the watermelon which is quite different to other ethnic groups who were and still are just pickling the rind. Pickled watermelon rind is, therefore, more common, especially in Asia.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, European Jews introduced dill pickles to America when they started to arrive in New York but I am not sure whether pickled watermelon is a thing in the US at all. One more reason why this should become famous.
I am not sure about how you feel about it but I definitely cannot live without pickles. I particularly like and prefer the salt pickles over the vinegar ones for three reasons:
1) health benefits (I will tell you a little later all about this);
2) they are pleasant and a lot tastier than any vinegar pickled stuff;
3) they are so easy to prepare - when I say easy, trust me I mean that!
What are the health benefits of salt pickling?
Pickling is a very old food preservation technique. People can make pickles from almost any food but, for many, pickles mean just pickled cucumbers. Where I come from, this is definitely not the case and pickles mean a general word for everything that is salt pickled.
Salt pickles, unlike vinegar pickles, are a strong probiotic source. Probably the cheapest too. They make a superb source of natural supplements protecting our body’s microbiome (gut environment) and supporting the growth of healthful bacteria in the gut.
Salt pickles, in general, need to be consumed in moderation by those that have cardiovascular issues due to the higher salt content. However, my recipe only uses 1 tablespoon of salt for each litre of water which is higher but not that high compared with some recipes that I have seen posted by some.
Ingredients needed to make pickled watermelon
Not many, as you can see you will only need 6 main ingredients apart from salt and water. Here is the list of what is needed:
- watermelon - the best ones are the smaller ones and particularly the ones that are not overripe
- carrots - it is not a must to add carrots but I love pickled carrots and they look nice too
- dill seeds - these are great flavour enhancers but if you do not have seeds you may use dried dill branches - they are as good. Fresh dill is not recommended as this will get mushy.
- celery - very important for flavour and it is velieved to help pickles remain firm
- garlic - use a nice organic garlic - no need to crush it - you may even leave it unpeeled
- horseradish root - helps pickles stay firm and crunchy
- salt - the salt added to pickles is crucial to be untreated salt - cave or kosher salt being the best choice
- water - measure it befor so you know how much salt to add so you are not left with any salty water that you may have to throw away.
Pickling watermelon does not take long at all. It can take from 3-5 days all depending on the ambient and the temperatures. During summer, it will take approximately 3 days whereas during winter will take longer. It also depends on how sour you like them, meaning that the sourer you'd want them, the longer you will need to let them pickle.
During the pickling process, you will need to keep them out at room temperature (sitting in the sun for a few hours a day will speed up the pickling process.
Once you are happy with the level of sourness, store them in the refrigerator in the original jar (lid on) for up to 2-3 months (if they will last). They will never last this long in my household, but I make one small-medium melon at one time and I make it throughout the year.
Salt type and the amount are paramount in this recipe and any salt pickles recipe.
It is very important to use the correct salt amount as this will make or break the recipe. If the salt is processed you risk your pickled watermelon getting mushy. Just make sure you do have the correct salt before even getting this recipe started.
Salt amount is the most important ingredient in this salt pickled watermelon recipe as too much salt is not pleasant nor healthy and too little salt will have an impact on texture and definitely the quality.
Pickled watermelon goes well with :
- Garlicky black eyed beans pâté on sourdough toast
- Smoked pork joint, sausages and butter beans stew
- Best ever quail eggs, potato and mushrooms brunch
- Easy Spanish Omelette (Spanish Tortilla)
- English breakfast in a flash
- Delightful breakfast stack
More ways to eat watermelon:
Pickled Watermelon Recipe
- 1 medium watermelon
- 3 stalks celery with leaves (optional)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp dill seeds dried or fresh dill plant
- 1 litre water
- 1 tablespoon salt non-iodized or kosher
- 2 medium zucchinis/ courgettes cut into 4 chunks/halves/quarters
- 4 medium carrots organic
- Gather all the ingredients and prepare them by washing, chopping, cutting, peeling, whatever is needed. Have the jars ready too. No need to sterilise these but just a good hot water rinse.
- Place a few celery stalks with leaves (if you chose to add these) at the bottom of each jar. Arrange the best you can the melon slices into the prepared jars, push in between the melon slices some zucchini chunks and a few carrot chunks or sticks. Do this until all melon has been jarred.
- Fill up all jars with water and then pour the water back out in a measuring jug. Hold the top watermelon pieces so that they do not fall out. We do this to know exactly how much water is needed for your batch and the amount of salt to add.
- Once you know the water amount, add 1 tablespoon (25g /0.89oz) salt for each litre of water (see notes for more quantities) and mix until the salt has dissolved. Warm up the water if you wish the watermelon to pickle super fast.
- Pour the water and salt back into the jars over the melon, add the remaining ingredients into each jar place the lid and give each jar a little shake.
- Place one jar into a nice and bright spot (into the sun) and the other(s) into a shadowy corner so they will get to pickle a little later. Remember to give these a shake once or twice a day making sure the lid is nice and tight and open the jars twice a day or leave the lid placed on top without tightening it. So, tighten lid - shake 2-3 times - open - place the lid back and leave it loose.
- Check every day to see when you like them - the longer they will stay the more fermented and sour they will be. When it reaches the desired level of sourness, refrigerate and serve with your favourite dishes.
- The number of jars needed depends very much on those sizes and the size of the melon.
- You will only need one or two small cloves of garlic per jar (for a 500 ml jar)
- Add more carrot and zucchini to the last jar if you have less melon for it to get filled.
- Salt amount:
- for 2 litres (67.63 floz) of water - 50g (1.77 oz) salt
- for 1.5 litres (50.72 floz) of water - 37g (1.31 oz) salt
- for 1 litre (33.81 floz) of water - 25.0g (0.89 oz) salt
- for 0.5 litre (16.90 floz) of water - 12.5g (0.46 oz) salt
- for 0.25 litre (8.45 floz) of water - 7g (0.22 oz) salt
What else could be salt pickled?
I pickle almost everything and I do this several times per year. Salt pickles or brine pickles are an amazing source of probiotics. I use all sorts of fruits (yes, fruits like apples, quince) and vegetables to pickle (see a whole list of what I dare to pickle) - almost anything you can think of, haha.
I grew up knowing that watermelon is pickled as a whole in a large barrel, sometimes just watermelons, sometimes mixed with green tomatoes, carrots, celeriac and other fruits or vegetables. My mum also used to pickle whole cabbage too.
I now pickle in small quantities and thus the watermelon gets chopped and I love adding courgettes (zucchini) chunks, carrots, celeriac and any root veggies that you may fancy.
Other fruit and veggies that we could salt pickle:
- green beans (blanched to preserve a nice vibrant colour);
- courgettes / zucchinis;
- red onion /brown onion;
- cabbage (red or white) - chopped or whole
- cucumbers (whole baby ones, slices or chuncks)
- green mirabelle plums
Here is an example of mixed pickled watermelon, celeriac, courgette or zucchini and carrot not so visible)