Pickled watermelon is a unique product with a distinctive flavor. Historically made seasonally by German immigrants to Russia who brined whole watermelons in wooden barrels, upon the invention of canning jars, they began pickling just the red part of the watermelon, unlike other ethnic groups who just pickle the rind. Any kind of watermelon can be used for this product, even immature melons, but the heirloom variety “Winter King & Queen” is now a favored variety.
The spicy, sweet, and sour brine contains vinegar, sugar, salt and water. Dill, garlic, pickling spices, and an optional red pepper are added to the jar along with the watermelon chunks. A couple thin slices of green pepper are usually added for garnish. It turns a sweet juicy fruit into a spicy, sour, sweet, salty, tangy delicacy, and the crisp, juicy interior into a spongy, smooth texture. The acidic elements in the brine help maintain the original bright pink color of the watermelon flesh.
In modern times, it is no longer necessary to go through the tedious process of food preservation, so this product is gradually becoming extinct. But there are small pockets of preservation, particularly in the midwestern United States; places like North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Montana, as well as in parts of Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Russia and Ukraine. German Russians have been in the United States for over 125 years, and many of them live in what is known as the “Sauerkraut Triangle” in North and South Dakota. In this area, the art of pickling watermelon remains a wonderful tradition. It would be a rarity to see Watermelon Pickles in a store or available for purchase online. When it is preserved, it is usually canned in homes for personal use; therefore it is available in limited quantities.