Ark of Taste
Pickled watermelon is a unique product with a distinctive flavor. Historically made seasonally by German immigrants to Russia, watermelon pickles, along with most canning and preserving products, were originally made for winter preservation. The German immigrants to Russia historically brined whole watermelons in wooden barrels. Upon the invention of canning jars, they began pickling just the red part of the watermelon, unlike other ethnic groups who just pickle the rind. The rinds were recycled for animal feed; nothing went to waste. Any kind of watermelon can be used for this product, even immature melons, but the heirloom variety “Winter King & Queen” is now a favored variety. The spicy, sweet, and sour brine contains vinegar, sugar, salt and water. Dill, garlic, pickling spices, and an optional red pepper are added to the jar along with the watermelon chunks. A couple thin slices of green pepper are usually added for garnish. It turns a sweet juicy fruit into a spicy, sour, sweet, salty, tangy delicacy, and the crisp, juicy interior into a spongy, smooth texture. The acidic elements in the brine help maintain the original bright pink color of the watermelon flesh. Tasting watermelon pickles is for the adventurous types who wish to have a unique culinary experience.
In modern times, it is no longer necessary to go through the tedious process of food preservation so this product is getting lost in the shuffle and is gradually becoming extinct. But there are small pockets of preservation, particularly in the midwestern United States; places like North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Montana, as well as in parts of Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Russia and Ukraine. German Russians have been in the United States for over 125 years, and many of them live in what is known as the “Sauerkraut Triangle” in North and South Dakota. In this area, the art of pickling watermelon remains a wonderful tradition. It is such a unique art that often the traditional recipes are passed down through generations among friends and families. Although the art of pickling watermelon has evolved over time to compensate for modern ways of food preservation, it remains an underappreciated pickled product in today’s world.
It would be a rarity to see Watermelon Pickles in a store or available for purchase online. When it is preserved, it is usually canned in homes for personal use; therefore it is available in limited quantities. These home artisans preserve an art that is completely unique to the world of pickled foods. If you are intrigued, throw some watermelon pieces into your next batch of pickles and enjoy the wonderfully unique flavor.