Old-Fashioned Watermelon Rind Pickles

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, September 20, 1912:  Don’t have much for today.

watermelon pickles

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I continue to enjoy making foods that were popular in central Pennsylvania in the early 20th century. Since Grandma didn’t write much I’ll tell you about my latest cooking endeavor.

Pickled foods were incredibly popular a hundred years ago.

I  decided to make old-fashioned watermelon pickles—and they looked lovely and tasted great.

It was a three-day process, but well worth the effort.

Old Fashioned Watermelon Pickles

4-5 quarts watermelon rind



2 cups apple cider vinegar

7 cups sugar

1 tablespoon whole cloves

3 sticks cinnamon

1 inch cube of fresh ginger

Select watermelon with a thick, firm rind. Cut off the outer green skin, and remove the red watermelon flesh, leaving a very thin layer of pink. Cut into 1-inch squares. Place in a 2 gallon glass  bowl or crock. (I used 2 smaller bowls).

Cover with a salt water solution (2 tablespoons salt to 4 quarts water). Cover and let stand for 24 hours at room temperature.

After 24 hours, drain and rinse with cold water. Cover with ice water. Let stand for 1 hour, then drain.

Place the rind in a large pan, and cover with boiling water. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain.

Put spices in a cheesecloth bag. Combine vinegar, sugar, and spices in large pan. Bring to a boil. Add rind. Simmer until rind is translucent.

Put rind and syrup into large glass bowl or crock. Cover; and let stand for 24 hours at room temperature.

Remove spice bag. Drain off syrup, put into a pan, and heat to boiling.

Pack the rind into hot pint jars; cover with the hot syrup, fill to 1/4 inch of top. Wipe jar rim and put lid on.

Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

Makes approximately 6 pints.

21 thoughts on “Old-Fashioned Watermelon Rind Pickles

  1. I never heard of watermelon rind pickles pickles before! They do look lovely. Maybe I should take a closer look at the pickle shelves in the old-fashioned general store over in Olde Mistick Village and see what other things they pickled in times gone by.

    1. I’ll bet that you’ll find them at an old-fashioned general store. There is a family-owned steakhouse near where I live that takes pride in serving the same foods that they served in the 1930s–and they serve watermelon rind pickles as an appetizer.

  2. Oh, what memories this brought back. My Aunt Esther used to make these. When she died 12 years ago, these one pint jar of her watermelon pickles left. We opened it for Christmas dinner and everyone had one taste. We made that jar last for 6 years with each taking one taste at Christmas to remember her. I think I want to try making them now.

      1. You saw that your writing here inspired me to write about my Auntie Esther. I wish I could remember just how many years those pickles lasted. There is still a bit of juice at the bottom of the jar!

        May I share your blog with someone who asked for a recipe?

    1. My grandmother used to make these. I like vied them! I am now 74 y/o and have just dug out her recipe in all my save recipes from her(in her own writing) ! I am now on a mission to recreate them. I love them with my butter beans, and black eyed peas! Yum!

      1. It’s wonderful to hear that this post brought back some good food memories – and that you found your mother’s recipe. Have fun recreating them!

  3. Good grief! I’m outside of Danville, you’re local! No wonder you know how to make these, this is the same as I grew up with on our farms outside of Washingtonville! Excellent recipe! Small world!

  4. My goodness; how lovely to find this recipe here. I grew up eating these–they were a delicious treat made by my grandma. I later found out (when blogging about her mother, my g grandma) where the recipe likely started. Your blog is fabulous. 🙂

    1. It’s wonderful to hear that this post brought back some good food memories. Watermelon Pickles are such a wonderful, old-fashioned taste treat.

  5. It is a lot of work but so worth it. I don’t have my recipe in front of me, but very similar to yours. I was talking today about getting some more made this year. They are delicious to anyone thinking of making them.

    Someone told me the other day that it’s almost a lost art because no one makes them anymore.

  6. It look like I somehow missed this post but better late than never…
    I’m surprised at the amount of sugar the recipe calls for, though I can see how it helps in preserving. I’m adding it to my “to try” list. 🙂

    1. This recipe does call for a lot of sugar, but the pickles are quite tasty. When I make this recipe, I use rinds from watermelons that have seeds. It might just be my imagination, but I think that the pickles are just a bit crisper.

        1. I am in my early 50s and have been learning how to be more self-reliant. I have a vague memory of watermelon pickles at a family gathering when I was small and wanted to find a recipe and make some. I’m so glad I found your recipe (and blog–fun to read!) –these are fantastic! I’ve since made several batches and have given them to friends and family (I’m making a batch for myself right now) who have said to me “These taste just like I remember,” which makes me smile. Again, thank you!

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