Watermelon Rind Relish

watermelon rind relish

A couple of years ago I made a fabulous relish with my surplus zucchini. It was a sweet relish, very much like the Del Monte hamburger relish I grew up with. I’d been having a hard time finding hamburger relish in stores, so I decided to try making it at home. It was a hit. We used it on hamburgers (of course) but also in egg salad and potato salad to really add a nice flavor.

Unfortunately, my squash crop hasn’t done very well this year, and I’ve been so sad to not have zucchini to make more of this delicious relish.

Yesterday, my son brought home a watermelon, and as I was cutting it I thought about making watermelon rind pickles. I’ve never even had watermelon rind pickles, but it seemed like a great way to eliminate waste, so I cut the rind into pieces. As I set them aside I had a wicked crazy wonderful idea: watermelon rinds might make a great substitute for zucchini in my beloved relish. Following our family credo of “What would happen if…?” I decided to go for it.

Roughly chopped watermelon rind.

And oh my. I am so excited about how this turned out. And so pleased with myself. It is nearly identical to my original recipe in both flavor and looks. The original recipe is slightly sweeter, but honestly? I think the watermelon rind version is just a bit better. I wouldn’t change a thing with this recipe – except maybe to double it.

Important: This is not scary. It took me about an hour to make 3 pints of relish. If you know how to operate a stove and chop veggies, you’re good to go.

Watermelon Rind Relish

Ingredients

  • 4 cups chopped watermelon rind, dark green outer skin removed
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • pinch ground nutmeg

A shortcut to start you off: If you have a food processor you can just toss roughly chopped watermelon rind, onions, and peppers into the bowl of the processor and pulse until they’re a good size. I like mine in about 1/8 – 1/4″ pieces. If you don’t have a food processor, just chop them finely by hand.

watermelon rind,

Chopped ingredients and salt after overnight refrigeration.

Combine watermelon rind, onion, peppers, and salt in a large bowl, stirring well. Chill overnight. Place in a colander to drain; rinse thoroughly and drain again. Transfer to a large stock pot and add remaining ingredients; bring just to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. At this point, the relish is done. You can just put it in jars and then in the refrigerator to use right away or give as gifts.

Simmering…

If you’d like your relish to be shelf stable, you’ll need to process it. Ladle hot relish into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-in. head space. Wipe rims with a damp cloth (to assure a good seal), screw sterilized lids on, and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. (Click through for a complete tutorial on water bath canning if you’ve never done it before.)

Full jar, ready for a lid.

Can you tell the difference between my original (zucchini) recipe and the watermelon rind recipe?

Zucchini relish on the left; watermelon rind relish on the right.

 

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  • This looks awesome. I’ll have to try it!

  • Elizabeth ,

    I bet this recipe could be lacto-fermented as well, instead of being prepared with vinegar. You would leave out the vinegar, increase the salt to about 1 T per quart, and add 2 T per quart of whey from an active culture of kefir or yogurt, then let it ferment on your counter until it is pleasantly sour.

    • Kris Bordessa ,

      Thanks for this, Elizabeth! I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole idea of lacto-fermentation, so I appreciate hearing how to alter the recipe accordingly.

  • This is such a great example of leaving no waste; reminds me of the native American Indians and their practices of using all parts of the animal. I am canning-challenged (terribly intimidated) but may try this, since if I ruined it, I wouldn’t be wasting veggies I could eat in other forms….

    • Kris Bordessa ,

      Even if you’re “canning challenged” as long as you can chop some veggies and simmer them, you can keep this right in the fridge! No canning necessary.

  • Doug ,

    Sorry, no recipe but my grandmother (southern lady from very modest circumstances) used to make candy from the rinds of many fruits; watermelon and grapefruit come to mind. As I recall (and it’s been a looong time) the rinds were cut into bite sized chunks and then somehow sugared so the sugar was infused into the rind and left a crunchy coating on the outside. As a kid, I don’t recall being enamored with the flavor but I’d sure like to give it a try now that I have a more, ahem, mature palette.

  • Nicole ,

    I just wanted to say thank you for this recipe! This is my and my husband’s first year farming and we’ve had a beautiful bounty of heirloom watermelons. Not wanting to waste ANYTHING we wanted to find a good recipe for the rind instead of using it for compost. We have successfully made this recipe 4 times and have been selling it at our weekly farmers’ market. Thank you, thank you!!

    P.S. It seems to sell well when marketed as a “chutney” because relish and chutneys are quite similar.

    • Kris Bordessa ,

      Oh, that’s so awesome! Thanks for letting me know. Glad to hear your customers like it and that you’ve managed to divert the rinds from the compost! (Have you tried the tomato chutney recipe I shared??)

      • Nicole ,

        I just read the recipe and your intro had my mouth watering. So glad Claudette shared the recipe for our enjoyment! Our tomatoes are done here in central Louisiana but I bookmarked it and will try it as soon as I get my hands on some yummy tomatoes. Thank you again, Kris!!!

  • Michelle ,

    Watermelon rind pickles are super yummy, but there are several recipes out there; our favorite has the longest inactive time, as it involves soaking the cut up, peeled rind pieces in pickling lime water so that they stay crisp. Otherwise they are soft; it’s all about which way you prefer them. They are sweet and spicy and amazing, and best of all, all they cost you is time and sugar and a few spices; I add a small bag of red hots for color and zing :)

  • Lisa P ,

    Looks good, I LOVE relish. I had some of the zucchini relish from a friend which we like on hotdogs. I too have more watermelon rind than squash so i must try this. I also make a “hot BBQ slaw” that has cabbage and mustard – also good on burgers and dogs. Never thought to use in my “tater” salad – something else to try – thanks!

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