Citizens, the week of fermentation and pickling continues with this very unusual pickled watermelon recipe from Russia!
Unlike the southern United States watermelon rind pickle, this includes the fruit as well, transformed into spicy, herbal, sweet and garlicky goodness from a classic lactobacillus brine (i.e. no vinegar added).
This is a delicious and rare recipe, only occasionally found translated into English – I hope you enjoy my TFD-enhanced version of a Russian classic! I’ve added the spicy kick of jalapeño and even an eccentric touch of (optional) peppadew peppers for sweet heat!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
8 cloves peeled garlic, smashed
5 ribs celery, coarsely chopped, with leaves
½ bunch dill, roots trimmed
3 tablespoons allspice berries
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
½ tablespoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 jalapeño peppers, sliced into rings
4 peppadew peppers (optional)
¼ cup diced yellow bell pepper
2 lb. watermelon, rind left on, cut into 1″-thick wedges
The ideal watermelon for pickling is firm-fleshed and on the rising side of ripeness. In most watermelon varieties, a yellower belly means a riper melon, so go for the whiter end of the spectrum.
Prepare the watermelon. Cut pieces into the size and shape that are most appropriate to you and your container.
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 (preferably glass or ceramic).
Cover them with water, then transfer the water 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.
Return the salt water to the container of watermelon. Add all other ingredients you’re using and combine (don’t put your fingers in the brine!).
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.
You can jump start the fermentation process by adding a spoonful of brine from a previous batch of fermented pickles. Using this method, the pickles should be ready for the fridge in 24 hours.
As soon as you detect a tinge of tangy of lacto-fermentation in the brine (think half-sour pickles) move the pickles into the fridge to stop fermentation.
Russian watermelon pickles should be served supremely cold. Serve them from a bowl along with some of their brine and vegetables/spices. The pickles will keep for a month or two.
After a week or 10 days, their crunch factor diminishes and the texture becomes softer and denser. At the same time, the flavor becomes more complex. Serve at the time you prefer.