Mom’s Blue Ribbon Watermelon Pickles

I once heard Garrison Keillor say something to the effect that the only purpose for watermelon pickles was to have an item on the Thanksgiving table that you could pass up.  When I was a child at my Grandmothers’ or Great-Aunt’s tables, the very things I looked forward to were corn relish, picallili and watermelon pickles.

I was a late-comer to canning and preserving.  My mother never attempted it and I was 50 before I found myself in a country home with a big garden and a lot of produce to use up.  Once I got started, I enjoyed canning so much that I spent the entire summer “putting up” everything my husband brought into the kitchen in his oversized basket.  We never grew watermelon but I bought a good Indiana melon each summer at the farmer’s market and made these pickles in quantity.  Now that I’m alone, I make up one small jar so I can have something on the Thanksgiving table for people to pass on.  This recipe won a Blue Ribbon at the Hamilton County Fair (Cincinnati) in 1983.


  • Servings: Makes one cup
  • Print

  • 3 cups of watermelon rind, prepared*
  • 1 cup cold tap water
  • 3/4 Tblsp. pickling salt


  • 1 tsp. whole cloves
  • 1 tsp. whole allspice
  • One 2″ piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tblsp. granulated sugar

*To prepare watermelon rind:

I used a medium sized seedless watermelon.  This melon had a thin rind.  Big old-fashioned black-seeded melons have a very thick rind and may need a longer cooking time.  The very small melons don’t have enough rind to use in this recipe.

Cut the melon in sections and cube the watermelon to set aside for some good eating.  Don’t cut too closely to the white portion of the rind.

Trim off the green rind and scrape the watermelon off the white section.  I cut my melon in matchstick strips about 1/2″ wide.

Place the rind strips in a non-metal container, cover with water and add salt.  Soak overnight.

The next morning, drain the rind, cover with fresh water and cook approximately 30 minutes at medium heat until almost tender.  Add water if needed.  Drain.

In a large pan, place the allspice, cloves, cinnamon, white vinegar, water and sugar and bring to a boil.  Add the drained rind and simmer gently for about 45 minutes.  The brine should be syrupy and cover the rind with a little to spare.

Remove the cinnamon stick and pour pickles into a sterilized 1/2 pint jar and cap.

Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. I’ve found an asparagus steamer is good for processing just a jar or two.   Let jar cool on a rack before storing. Allow pickles to cure for at least a week before using for best flavor. 

This is a good web site for information on canning and preserving foods.

Published by


Lillian Applegate Westfelt was a mother of 4, grandmother of 6, and great-grandmother of 3. She was an 86-year-old widow living in a nice little bungalow with her oldest daughter and a beagle-dachsund named Addie. She passed away in November, 2018.

56 thoughts on “Mom’s Blue Ribbon Watermelon Pickles”

  1. are the flavor of these like “hot cinnamon”…? My mother used to make a “watermelon pickle” that tasted like hot cinnamon! I have been dying to find a recipe to make them! 🙂

    1. Yes, I made a batch last week and they are very cinnamony! I am not a “sweet pickle” person, but these are very good!

    2. my cousin in Louisiana made “hot cinnamon”; she put red hots candy in them. They were very good. That’s the recipe I’M looking for!

  2. I an english but was married to an american and for many years and we spent many wonderful hot summers with his family in Connecticut.

    My mother in-law, Jean made water melon pickle and it sat in a crock by the stove all year round. I absolutely adored it and often wished I had taken the recipe. I have just found this recipe which sounds exactly like the pickle she made and I look forward to making this and serving it with baked ham the way Jean did back in the 1970’s. Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your watermelon pickle experiences. I believe the pickles are very much under-appreciated. Hope yours turn out well. Lillian

  3. Hi

    I have just tried this receipe and it has been a miserable falire as the liquid never turned to syrup. Do you have any thoughts why as it is pretty straight forward, the only thing I did differently was to double the quantities and use ground all spice as I live in England and couldn’t find whole allspice?

    My mother in law in Connecticut used to make it and it sat in a crock by the stove and she just added to it each summer and I loved it so this is disappointing.

    Margaret from Manchester x

    1. I’m so sorry you had a problem with the recipe. I’ve made it so many times with good results. It’s hard to describe a level of cooking temperature but a bubbly simmer for 45 minutes has always worked for me. I don’t think doubling the quantities or using ground allspice would make any difference. I don’t know if there is a problem with measurement conversions – sometimes I have trouble with that when trying out a recipe.

      I remembered your talking about your mother-in-law’s pickles and hoped you could duplicate them. I’m so sorry this didn’t work out. Lillian

  4. I was so glad to come across this recipe–it is exactly what I was looking for. I no longer keep a garden myself, but my sister in law does, and my husband and I bid and buy at Amish auction where we purchase things in large quantities to process.

    I’m just about ready to move on to some peaches and watermelon and this recipe looked perfect. I’m sorry to hear you carry on this tradition without the help of your husband. I know what that is like, and it does take some adjustment and finding happiness in different areas of life. Thanks for the recipe. Laurie Block

    1. Thank you for your nice comments and for your thoughts on continuing after a loved one has passed on. I hope the pickles turn out well for you – I’ve made them many, many times throughout the years with good results. Lillian

  5. wonderful and informative site ! I am wondering if there is a way to keep the watermelon rinds fresh while finishing off the rest of the watermelon so I don’t have to cut and peel the whole watermelon at one time ? I am anxious to try your recipe.

    1. I normally use the rind as soon as I cut up the watermelon, but back when I had a lot of other produce to take care of, I used to keep the cleaned portion in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until I could get to it (within a few days) and have also on occasion frozen it. It didn’t seem to affect the quality at all.

      I’ve made the watermelon pickles many times through the years with good results. I hope you have good luck with yours. Lillian

      1. Glad to see that you had good luck freezing these! I have a different recipe than this that my mom used to make all the time. Pretty much the same except no allspice and no overnight salt. Just boil the prepared rinds until clear and then pouring boiling vinegar, sugar, and spice mix over them. Let them soak overnight, Drain the liquid in the morning; boil it again and pour it back over the rinds again. Then when cooled the second time, they are ready to can or, in my case, stick in several jars to take to people that like them. I made too much this year, though and was wondering if freezing some was an option. Thanks for the assurance that it is!

    2. I cut my whole watermelon into large chunks about 2 inch x 2 inch and store it in a large plastic container. It is ready to eat without any further prep and stores well until gone. I have been doing this for years as has my 98 year old mother.

  6. I am so glad to hear about the large watermellons having the thick rind. I have been looking for years for a thicker rind watermellon. Now I know which one to buy.

    Thank you
    Bill Nelson
    Hemet CA

    1. Thanks for your comment. I always bought big watermelons and the rind was good for pickling. I was surprised to see how thin the rind was on small melons. Lillian

  7. I’m so surprised that nobody has mentioned this, but if you buy the melons that the store has halved, you can
    SEE how red the meat is… AND how thick the rind. And if you have to buy two, the added expense is made up “IN MY NEVER TO BE HUMBLE OPINION”, by the great tasting fruit and pickles. I hate unripe melons.

    1. I’m really glad you added that comment because I’ve been shopping and cooking for over 55 years and never thought of that. You’re right – it is worth the extra expense to be sure of what you’re getting. Lillian

  8. Lillian,
    While looking for a watermelon pickle recipe I happened upon yours. Imagine my surprise when I saw you won a blue ribbon in 1983 at the Ham. Cty. fair – My Mom may have been one of your judges!! What a small world! I will have to try this recipe for sure.


    1. How wonderful! It was such a thrill to win a ribbon at the fair. I hope you like the recipe – I’ve used it almost every summer since 1983. Lillian

  9. Have you ever soaked your rind in Lime Water for a few hours or overnight?? Im from Arkansas and my Aunties(87 and 85) still make watermelon rind pickles, but they use the lime water. Then proceed pretty much like yours. Thanks VJM

    1. I’ve never used lime water for the watermelon pickles, but I have used it occasionally for other types of pickles. I’m sure it would make the pickles crisper.

      I love that your aunties still make the pickles. I’m almost 79 myself and I hope I’m still able to cook when I’m their age. Lillian

  10. I made my first attempt at pickles a few days ago using this recipe, and they turned out wonderfully! I was so excited about them that I brought some in to my work (I work at a natural/organic grocery store) so that my coworkers could try them; the pickles were gone within an hour or two! One coworker liked them so much, he asked if I would make another jar for him, and several others that weren’t present that day, have asked me to bring in more so that they can try them too. Thank you for sharing this delightful recipe (I’ve recommended it to several people now,) and I’m sure I won’t be the last to thoroughly enjoy this recipe – it’s quite famous amongst the staff at a little health food store in East Lansing!

    1. What a wonderful comment – thank you. I’m so glad the pickles turned out well for you.

      I don’t often get feedback after a recipe has been tried and I appreciate this so much. I’m going to print out the message to keep in my recipe binder. Lillian

  11. One way to tell if a whole watermelon is ripe is to look for a yellow patch on the rind where it sat on the ground. I have never gotten an unripe melon since I learned this (where I learned it, however, I have long since forgotton)

    I have always thought the rind of watermelons was just as good as the red part, and have often thought of trying pickles. But all the recipes I looked at before made a large amount, way more than I want. This looks delicious and I’ll be trying it our tomorrow, as soon as I finish the rest of the melon in my fridge!

    1. Thank you for the tip about ripe melons – I’ll remember that one.

      I hope you like the pickles. I’m going to be making another jar myself soon so it will be ready for Thanksgiving. Lillian

  12. when I grew up mama called them watermelon rind preserves never heard of pickles. she made our more like oreserves to vinegar

    1. I guess they really are more like preserves. Whatever they’re called, I love them. Thank you for visiting my blog. Lillian

  13. I have been told that I could use cucumbers to make this recipe. Have you ever tried to use large cucumbers?

  14. Thank you for the recipe! I had never had watermelon pickles before, but I tried making them just now and I think they turned out well.

    I didn’t make quite enough syrup to can all the rind I’d cut up (I was trying to quadruple your recipe AND put them in tiny little 4 oz jars to hand out as a thank-you). So I had a little rind left over to try once the jars were all processed. Delicious!

  15. Hi there! A friend just sent me your link and I wanted to say that I grew up eating watermelon pickles made by my grandma, and we actually used to fight over the last one! Her complaint though, was that the watermelons now have no rind to speak of, and so it got more and more difficult to make them. She’s gone now, but it was nice to have this reminder of just how special she was. Keep on pickling!

    1. Your grandmother was right that the watermelons of today have such thin rinds. So glad that you had the opportunity to taste her really good ones. Thank you for commenting. Lillian

  16. i didn’t understand the part about the crockpot. does that mean you keep the syrup in there all summer long and just throw in the rind as you eat the watermelons?

    1. A guest made the comment about the crock pot – I’ve never made pickles this way, so I really don’t know.

      Thank you for stopping by my blog. Lillian

    2. The comment was -“My mother in-law, Jean made water melon pickle and it sat in a crock by the stove all year round” A CROCk Not a CROCKPOT like we use today, the old fashioned pottery crocks were used to hold food as they did not have big electric refridgerators like we have today, and crocks kept foods cool that had enough vinegar in it to preserve it and not go bad. Just a little history lesson fyi, enjoy these pickles of Lillian’s , they are the bomb! Just like my granny made.

  17. Love, love, love these pickles. Gave some to my daughter and next-door neighbor…they want more (and so do I) so I am eating my way through another watermelon. Great recipe, easy and not too large.
    But what is lime water?

    1. One of my readers mentioned lime water. You can buy pickling lime at the store (a powder) and dissolve it in water. Pre-soaking in the lime water helps keeps pickles crisp. I used it once or twice for other pickles and didn’t find it necessary.

      Thank you for your comments. So glad you like the pickles. Lillian

  18. I’m about 6 months pregnant and have been really wanting some watermelon rind pickles like I used to eat at the holiday dinner tables growing up. (I never passed the relish tray before stealing as many as I could get away with – without getting a jab from Grandpa!) So I bought a watermelon, found your recipe, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best. And I am SO glad I found you! Even with them still so hot I burnt my tongue, they have the flavor I’ve been craving. I hope I’ll still have some left in a week so I can have the full effect! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your nice comments. I enjoyed reading about getting as many pickles as possible before Grandpa noticed. Lillian

  19. Thank you! I have just completed this recipe and the jars are “pinging!” The syrup tasted wonderful! Amazing this thread is still being used after posting almost 4 years ago!

    1. Thank you for commenting and for trying the pickles. I hope you and your family like them.

      This post has been one of my most popular ones. Lillian

    1. Thank you so much for your nice comment. I will need to save some watermelon meat next time to make jelly. Lillian

  20. I would like to make a large batch in order to provide gifts to family at our reunion. I’m hesitant to just multiply the salts and spices to match the quantity of watermelon rind. Have you made this in large batches and can you provide me with appropriate quantities for multiple quarts?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s