Watermelon Pickles with Star Anise and Sichuan Peppercorns

img_0063I know,  I’m late with this recipe.  Whatever.   I got behind on posting recipes because I was having an awesome summer that did not involve sitting in front of a computer.

During the heat wave in August, I taught a week long cooking camp for a small group of boys (average age 8).  I teach this camp through Brooklyn Apple Academy at the Sunview Luncheonette in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  The young cooks spend a week cooking their own lunches and preparing a diner that they serve to their families on Friday Evening.  This was our second year with (mostly) the same group of boys.  Our menu for the first year was Italian and you can read all about those recipes in at this link.  This year our menu was heavy on the vegetables and Asian themed.  I intend to post all of the excellent recipes that this year’s young chefs prepared for their future reference and the enjoyement of all!  You can find this year’s complete menu at this link.img_9547We made a whole bunch of pickles for the appetizer platter (celery, carrot, okra, pepper, radish and beet) but the watermelon rind pickle was by far the most popular.  I had not planned to make watermelon rind pickle.  As the boys were industriously peeling carrots and chopping celery, one of the older boys  suggested that we try pickling watermelon rind.  I had never done it before although it was on my long list of things to learn how to do, so we went for it!

Oliver and I did not follow a recipe.  This was truly a cooking science experiment.  We chopped up the rind (green part and all) and put it in some leftover salt brine with a bit of sugar.  A couple of days later, we tested the pickles.  We realized that the outer green part was inedible and diligently trimmed all of it off.  We also agreed that the brine needed a lot more sugar.  Oliver added sugar until he was happy with the result.  I threw in some anise pods and Sichuan pepper corns that we had leftover from making tofu marinade.  The result was fantastic.img_0059

Late in the summer I tried it again while visiting my family in Canada.  This time I looked up a reliable recipe for the ratio of sugar, salt and vinegar, but I kept the same spices.  The recipe that I found suggested leaving a bit of the pink part of the watermelon, which makes much prettier pickles and also provides a little bit of texture contrast.  You don’t want to much of the pink though since the white part of the rind has a much nicer crunch to it.

The meal that the Run a Luncheonette Camp fed the parents was vegetarian, but I have to say that these watermelon pickles made a fantastic accompaniment to the ridiculous amount of wild caught meat and fish that my family cooked up at out family reunion in Canada.  I’ll be making these again next summer for sure!


Inspired by Oliver and adapted from Alton Brown

  • Rind from a watermelon 5 pound watermelon, approximately 2 pounds
  • 1 cup apple cider or white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
  • 2 whole star anise pods


  1. Scoop out melon leaving about 1/4 inch of red flesh.
  2. Peel off outer green with vegetable peeler and then cut into 1-inch cubes.
  3. Bring the vinegar, water, sugar, ginger, salt and spices to a boil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Hold the boil for 60 seconds then carefully add the watermelon. Return to a boil and turn off the heat. Remove the pan from the heat and cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Scoop the pickles to a 2-quart jar and cover with as much of the pickling juice as possible. Cover the jar and leave at room temperature for another one and half hours.
  5. Refrigerate overnight and consume within a month. These pickles must be refrigerated.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Glenda says:

    These are so delicious! I’m eating the last jar with Gabriola lamb. Thanks, Erin!

  2. Glenda says:

    The pickling juice makes a great vinegrette with grape seed oil. Try it over romaine and arugula salad with walnuts and pears or apples. Yum!

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