This post was inspired by my German mother-in-law. When I first started dating my husband, his mom pickled EVERYTHING, including watermelon. Watermelon??? I thought it was the strangest thing I had ever heard of……until I tried it. It is surprisingly GOOD. There are a few ways people pickle watermelon. Some use the rind (which is extra weird to me), some use just the flesh, and some use a bit of both! There are also several different preserving methods, hot bath, cold bath, & fermentation to name a few. I prefer a cold bath fridge pickle in most cases (I am a crunchy pickle person), so that is what we are going with here…sort of! This Russian Pickled Watermelon from Extra Slaw will not keep as long as a traditionally “canned” version, and does not use a vinegar brine, but rather a salt brine fermentation process. It is a different take on a really old Russian/German pickle. Enjoy!
Fresh dill with stem
Prepare the watermelon. Cut pieces the size and shape that suits you. Peel, or leave on the peel. I like how biggish wedges stay crisper and I leave on the skin. You can always trim them down before serving if you like.
Make the brine. To figure how much salt you’ll need, fit the watermelon pieces into the non reactive container (or containers) you’re using. Cover with water then transfer it to a measuring cup. Add the appropriate amount of salt and stir to dissolve.
BRINE PROPORTION: 1 tablespoon Kosher salt per pint (2 cups) of water.
Prepare the pickle batch. Return the salt water to the container of watermelon. Add allspice, bay leaves, black peppercorns, celery, dill, garlic, and other ingredients you’re using. Use a plate or saucer that fits inside the container to weigh down the ingredients. Cover the container with a kitchen towel to keep out insects.
Let it ferment. By 24 hours you’ll likely see some bubbles and maybe some frothy foam. That’s good. In warm weather, it normally takes 2 or 4 days for the transformation to occur. Deciding when to move the batch to the fridge to slow down the pickling process is a matter of taste. I prefer to go short—as soon as I detect a tinge of tangy of lacto-fermentation (think half-sour pickles) my batch goes to the fridge. TIP. You can jump start the process by adding a spoonful of brine from another batch of fermented pickles. That’s what I did with my latest batch and it was ready for the fridge in exactly 24 hours.
Serving time. Russian watermelon pickles should be served icy cold. Dip them from the brine right before serving so they’re plump and juicy, or serve from a bowl along with some brine. Pickles will keep for a month or two. After a week or 10 days their crunch factor diminishes and texture becomes softer and denser, at the same time, flavor becomes more complex. Finding the balance between the texture that suits and the flavor you like is a matter of personal taste. I like mine on the crunchy side. When I’m planning to serve watermelon pickles for a specific meal, I start a batch 3 to 5 days ahead so I can chill them a day or two.