Working in remote, isolated locations often dictates that we find more uses for an ingredient in order to use is all. Similarly, isolation sparks ingeniuity. How to make several dishes out of one base ingredient? That is where the pickle comes in.
Pickles take time. Pickles also capture time, at least a moment in time. Actually, pickles often get us out of a pickle. We were working with watermelon and I realized we had not made pickled watermelon rind in a long time. I took the opportunity to look at the process of pickling. In pickling we are transferring flavor from a broth, and acidic brine to a vegetable or other ingredient. We have made quick pickles before with soft celled fruits and vegetables: cucumbers, musk melon, strawberries. My challenge was to see if I could take watermelon rind, a tough celled ingredient and go from start to finish as a pickle in less than twenty four hours.
Why the rush? Well, why wait if you do not have to. Perhaps we can change our approach and yield a fresher, cleaner tasting product. Perhaps trying something different keeps us from getting stale. Perhaps the process will take more time, yield a poor result and I can then cross off another do not do from my list.
I know that compressing watermelon proper under a vacuum breaks down cells and concentrates flavor. Why would it not work on the rind? So, the rind went in the bag and compression began. The picture from yesterday was both the melon and the rind under compression. I put the melon rinds in the refrigerator overnight. While the melon rind rested I made a pickling solution with rice vinegar, honey, salt, water and fratelli pofi vinegar. The solution balances bright and rich flavors, touched with salinity and underscored by floral notes. The following morning I opened the bags I poured the cool pickling solution into the bags and sealed them again. The compressed cells easily happily accepted the pickle.
When I opened a bag later in the day, twenty four hours from initial compression, I was eating pickled watermelon rind. The flavors were cleaner than I anticipated. Over time the pickle may evolve and change, though the process demonstrates that while pickling is for preserving we do not need to wait until winter to enjoy summers bounty.