Watermelon Rind Pie
Last night we had some friends over for a springtime grill-out. Burgers, beer, grilled zucchini, homestyle fries, and juicy watermelon. So today, there were lots of leftovers in the fridge. With the extra ground beef, I made chili. I chopped a small onion and cooked it with the extra meat, added a can of black beans, chili powder, smoked paprika, 1/2 cup picante sauce (salsa), 1/2 cup flat beer, 1 sweet potato (baked and cubed) and simmered until done, stirring and adding beer as necessary to keep it from burning.
Then, confronted with the mountain of watermelon rinds on the counter, I wondered whether I could use them for something. The southern grannie on my shoulder thought it was a shame to see it all go to waste. I knew I’d seen pickled watermelon rinds, but I soon discovered that there are a lot of other ways to use them! Apparently, the rinds are used as a vegetable in stir-fries, stews, salads, chutneys, you name it.
Like the melon flesh, the rinds are mostly water, but do contain some nutrients. According to livestrong.com, a serving of watermelon rind (whatever that is) contains 2 percent of your daily vitamin C and 1 percent of your vitamin B-6. The rind also contains a compound called citrulline, an antioxidant.
The most intriguing result of my internet search was a mock apple pie made from the melon rinds. I looked at a few recipes, but mainly tweaked this one until it came out like this:
Melon Rind Pie
4 cups thinly sliced watermelon rind, with green outer peel removed
1 cup sugar of your choice (granluated, raw, brown, or confectioners)
1/2 cup craisins (or any tart dried fruit)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla (or brandy, rum, etc)
1 T flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
Refrigerated pie dough (I like the kind you just unroll and bake. See link above for a dough from-scratch)
1 T butter
Vanilla ice cream (optional)
Cutting board and knife
Large bowl and spoon
Measuring cups and spoons
In a large saucepan, combine melon rinds, 1/4 cup of your sugar, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 25 or 30 minutes. Make sure the rinds are translucent and very soft.
(I left mine on the al dente side and wished I’d cooked them a lot longer). Drain off the liquid and transfer to a large bowl to cool. Stir in vanilla and lemon juice.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a separate container, combine the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, craisins, pecans, flour, spices and salt. Line a pie pan with dough. Once the rinds are cool, add the sugar mixture and stir well.
Transfer filling to the pie pan and top with the second pie crust. Crimp the edges of the dough with your fingers or a fork. Cut a few slits in the top pastry for ventilation. Top with a few dabs of butter. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then cover with aluminum foil and reduce heat to 375. Bake another 30 minutes or so, until the filling is bubbly and soft (you can test with a knife). Let cool at least 30 minutes before eating. Serve warm, with ice cream if you like.
I had fun making my friends guess what the filling was made from. Everybody seemed to think it was tasty, even though the rinds were still just a little crunchy. It was a lot like an apple pie, but with all the nuts, and spices, a little like mincemeat too. It’s gonna be a tasty summer, y’all!