America's colonists were a hungry bunch. One still wonders what drove those early Americans to look at discarded watermelon rinds and say, "Drown it in enough hard cider, and I could eat that." But we're glad they did.

What is it?

"To Pickle or Make Mangoes of Melons" was among the many recipes in the very first cookbook published in America - American Cookery by Amelia Simmons (1796). And while Simmons' recipe for pickled watermelon rind is perhaps a bit more savory - "a clove of garlick, a little ginger and nutmeg sliced, and a little whole pepper" - than today's variations, the preparations are familiar.

Pickled watermelon rind uses only the white part of the rind - the tough green skin is peeled away. It is chopped into bite-size pieces, brined and boiled until it starts to soften. It is then cooked in thick, spice-laden syrup spiked with vinegar for a tangy bite. The finished translucent, topaz-hued morsels have a flavor similar to spiced pear.

How do I use it?

The warm spices that infuse the rinds - clove, cinnamon and allspice - make these pickles a great pairing with roast turkey or a sweet contrast to smoky barbecued pork. Or make a fast appetizer by placing slices on toasted baguette rounds smeared with soft, salty cheese.

Prepared pickled watermelon rind can be found at local grocery stores, but come summertime, when melons are plentiful, you might want to get bold enough to make your own batch. The recipe featured in Alice Walters' Chez Panisse Fruit is the go-to recipe for Farmhaus' Kevin Willmann, and it makes a generous 1½ quarts - giving you some to savor immediately and some to stock up against those winter privations.

Marinated Pork Loin with Watermelon Pickle Slaw

By Kevin Willmann, Farmhaus

Serves | 6 to 8 |

  • 2½ lbs boneless pork loin
  • 2 quarts pickled watermelon rind, brine reserved
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 large shallot, sliced thin
  • 1 bulb fennel, shaved
  • 1 Tbsp fennel seeds, toasted

| Preparation - Pork Loin | Place loin and brine in a plastic bag and marinate in refrigerator for 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove pork from brine; pat dry; gently season with salt and pepper. In an ovenproof pan, sear loin in butter and grapeseed oil over medium heat until golden-brown all the way around, being careful not to brown the butter-oil mixture too much. Transfer to the oven in the same pan and cook to an internal temp of 140 to 145°F, about 12 to 20 minutes. Let pork loin rest 15 to 20 minutes (temperature will rise 10 degrees or so to a medium-well but still juicy center).

| Preparation - Slaw | Slice pickled watermelon rind into thin strips, and then toss in a mixing bowl with shallot, fennel and fennel seeds. Slaw can be refrigerated while pork loin rests.

| To Serve | Slice pork and serve with chilled slaw.

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