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August 09, 2010

Pickled watermelon rind


In a few days, I'm getting on a plane.

While I'm not flying to Chicago this time, my last flying experience made me think.  Not trying to be morbid, but the one thing that kept popping into my head when we were delayed with engine trouble was this: Great. I'm gonna die in a plane crash today and the last thing I ate was a gluten-free Larabar and a cup of coffee. That is bullshit. 

What happened to me?

I used to be the traveler that other travelers envied and also sometimes probably despised.  While they were stuck with their bag of airline-issued pretzels and flat Sprite with fecal-infused ice, I'd be the one setting up my little bento box of charcuterie, vegetables, and fruit.  While they hauled on offensive-smelling bags of gristle and poo from Burger King, I'd nosh on smoked almonds, candied walnuts, cheese, and dark chocolate.

But lately it seems I've gotten lazy about my pre-travel food prep ritual.  And with celiac, there are no gluten-free food options in airports or on airplanes, so I have to be diligent about bringing my own snacks.

So, I decided to kick myself in the ass and make something from the Alinea cookbook to take on the plane for this trip.  After poring over the pages, drooling over some of the options, I decided to make the pickled watermelon rind from "Ayu, kombu, fried spine, sesame" on page 97 of the book.

Something in my body is changing and evolving because I can't seem to stop pickling things this summer.  First it was green beans with dill.  Then, I expanded to doing green beans with fennel seed, or clover and mustard seed.  I pickled chard stems.  I pickled cherries.  I pickled fennel.  I pickled grapes.  All this from the girl who, a year ago, gagged at the mere thought of eating anything in a vinegary brine.

With a seedless watermelon from the farmer's market already on my kitchen counter, I got to work. I had to change the amounts in the recipe to accommodate the larger quantity of rind I'd be pickling, but this is so incredibly easy, I hope you'll try it.  Watermelon pickles are soooooo good, and this whole process took all of 20 minutes.

I cut open the watermelon:



I scooped out the flesh and saved it for later (actually, I've been eating it all week and MAN is it good).

I sliced the halves into crescents and then cut the crescents into strips (easier to remove the green bit of the rind that way):


I removed the outer green rind, and the rest of the red flesh, leaving only planks of the white and pink rind, which I cut into smaller pieces (about 1" square):




The brine is easy:

200g water (just under 1 cup)

200g rice vinegar (just under 1 cup)

150g sugar (3/4 cup)

Heat all three in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, add the watermelon rind pieces, turn off the stove burner, and let the rind sit in the brine until it comes to room temperature (about an hour).


You can eat them right away, but they're even better 3, 4, 10 days out.  After mine had cooled to room temperature, I put them in a mason jar with as much brine as would fit, closed the lid nice and tight, and stored them in the refrigerator (which is where they'll stay until I'm done eating them).


I'm totally stoked to be able to take a little container of these on the plane with me for a snack.  Bet no one else will have anything this good in their carry on.  (Watch.  Freakin' Ferran Adrià will be on my flight, and will whip out some sort of avant-garde Chex Mix and put me to shame.)

When you travel, whether by car, train, or plane, do you bring your own snacks?  What do you make?  What do you avoid?

Edited to add: I'll be carrying these on the plane in a small container, no brine.  No TSA agent is gonna make me throw away these beauties.

Resources: Seedless watermelon from the 14th and U Street Farmers Market; Domino sugar; Marukan rice vinegar.

Music to Pickle Things To: You guys, I am such a dork. I've begun what will likely be a year-long process of cleaning up my iTunes.  Getting rid of music I downloaded on a whim and realized I don't like.  Reorganizing my playlists.  Listening to all the music I already have and downloading more from artists I love.  Correcting typos in track listings (yes. dork.).  Making sure all songs in albums are labeled in the correct order so I can listen to them in the way they were intended to be heard (again. dork. I KNOW.).  This is all a very long way of telling you I listened to a lot of Adam Ant while I was pickling this watermelon rind.  I'd forgotten how much I love "Desperate But Not Serious," "Friend or Foe," and "Strip."  I saw Adam live at the old 930 Club in DC in 1989 and had a great time at the show (despite the rabid fan who pushed his way to the stage to show Adam the full back tat he had done of Adam looking over this guy's baby daughter, which, creepy).  It was good to listen to his music again.  And how fitting is the chorus of "Antmusic" when it comes to my music reorganization project: "So unplug the jukebox and do us all a favor, that music's lost its taste so try another flavor."

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Goody! I'm about to get on a plane myself, and am planning on making David Lebovitz' cranzac cookies (may be GF even - not sure about oats) from his newest book. We also worked out a layover in Dublin at lunchtime, a couple pints will make the rest of the transatlantic flight go by quickly, I hope. :)

I'd remove the brine before flying. You know how TSA loves to confiscate liquids.

Air travel seems to be the last place left where you can carry on your own food. I'm diabetic and while airlines offer "diabetic meals" by special order, they're just awful for all the reasons you stated above. But my peeve is this. We just recently attend the Roanoke Valley Horse show on Saturday night. The show started at 4pm and continued until about 10pm. I knew there would be no food available there that I could eat (it's all processed, breaded, dropped in a fryer. Ick, on so many levels) so I packed a small soft sided cooler of stuff I could eat for my husband and I. I have to eat on a schedule which meant no dinner before and waiting to eat after the show would mean EMTs administering subcutaneous injections of glucose into my unconscious self. After paying for our pricey tickets and getting to the gate I was informed that I could not bring my cooler into the venue. After explaining my situation (and flashing my insulin Flexpen) I was informed too bad for you and that they offered a fruit bowl I could eat. Fruit bowl, in syrup, that would make a diabetic's head explode. The upshot was, I had to leave the arena at the very time the classes I had paid to see were coming on to walk half a mile across the parking lot to our car and eat. I missed the highlight of my evening.

If venues want to hold their audience captive for hours (much like airlines do) then they should provide food items that can accomodate special diets. I so feel like I was discriminated against for my handicap. If I was in a wheelchair and couldn't access the venue, they'd be fined. I paid my money and had to leave. *sheepish shrug* Thanks for letting me rant.

My Mom used to make watermelon rind pickles a lot growing up. They were my Dad's favorite and the recipe is from his mother. Hers have cinnamon, and I'm not sure what else in them. Definitely different and delicious.

Hi! I just found your blog and LOVE IT!! Made the goats milk/lavender/blackberry ice cream this a.m. O-M-G...thank you so much for posting it. And thank you for such great writing. I look forward to reading more Alinea recipes.

Quelle coinkidink, I've had pickled watermelon rind on the brain lately. Will you pretty please post this on PD? Muchos besitos.

Sounds so delicious! As I travel all of the time for work, I envy your ability to make and bring homemade snacks with you. One question though - with the wonderful TSA guarding the security lines, will you be able to pass through with the mason jar filled with brine? You might have to dispose of the brine prior to passing through security. I'm sure it will still taste delicious!!!

This is so weird. My grandmother used to make watermelon pickles and I loved them deeply. I have a seedless melon in the fridge and have been thinking about trying to make those pickles. I inherited her recipe files but, alas, no pickle recipe. Or damson plum preserves recipe. Thanks so much for sharing your pickle recipe. And yes, I do pack snacks - usually a homemade trail mix with dried fruits and nuts and maybe some M&Ms. Or homemade granola bars.

This is my first summer for making pickles, and I can't believe it took me so long! Can't wait to make these....

And I totally get your flying thought. After 39 years of waiting I finally met The One, and for his 50th we went to The French Laundry, for the single best meal either of us had ever eaten. On the flight back to Chicago we hit a 30 minute patch of turbulance so bad I genuinely thought we were going to fall out of the sky.

And I remember thinking, if I gotta go now, at least I'm going with the love of my life and my last supper was French Laundry, not too shabby!

I always pack delicious snacks for planes, life is too short for airport crap or empty stomachs :)

I love Adam Ant! And I love your blog. Saw him around '85 somewhere in Boston. Every once in a while I break out the greatest hits and dance around.

I usually bring Goldfish for plane rides. I don't know why, they are not very filling. Sometimes nuts and dried fruit. I usually bring Goldfish to the beach too!

Thanks for letting all of us live vicariously through your writing. I always look forward to your new posts.

uhh, YUM. makes me wish I had picked up one of the watermelons I was eyeing at the store yesterday.

omg next time you're in NYC, we need to go to Brighton where you can have brined watermelon and picked everything! as to what i bring w/me when i travel, i make a really good sandwich, i bring nuts and raisins and a piece of dark chocolate. i really pack a huge meal!

Yeah, that is way yummier than the bag of pretzels I usually bring. :)

Part of the fun of travel for me is figuring out what to take on the plane. Hummus and pita, shrimp and cocktail sauce, cheese and crackers (with fig jam or apple butter), what I call a French sandwich - ham, brie, Dijon and butter on a baguette cut into bite-size pieces. Usually something sweet like home made cookies (enough to share), or biscotti. And then the usual; nuts, m&ms, pretzel nuggets. One thing I keep in mind, since losing some nice containers, is to take everything in reused deli containers. Just in case someone at the TSA gets all Napoleonic (or hungry) and wants to deny my food boarding. Believe me, I'm a travel agent so I've read every single one of those rules..."What do you mean I can't bring my meat cleaver on the plane?!" Love the pickle recipe. We used to have watermelon rind pickles and cantaloupe pickles all the time. Can't find cantaloupe anymore - guess I'll have to make them!

I flew to Mexico with friends a few years ago. When we met them at the airport gate at 5:30am for a 6:30 flight, my friend informed me that we would be having bloody Marys. He pulled out ziplock baggies of ice and celery, water bottles filled with vodka and bloody Mary mix, and plastic cups. This was just before the no-liquids ban, so we were able to enjoy a drink at the gate and another on the plane. (Bringing the vodka onto the plane was probably a no-no, but it looked like water and nobody questioned him.)

No mention of Stand and Deliver?!? Highlight of last summer's No Doubt tour with their cover. Also tore up Guns of Navarone.

Was planning a watermelon salad for tonight, now I'll put the rinds up too.

I've been planning on making some Watermelon Pickles this weekend -- it's great to see some pictures before hand so I'll know what to expect :-)

Thanks for posting this. Because of this post, I have a watermelon sitting in the kitchen waiting for its big moment as fruit and then rind pickles.

When I go on long domestic flights, I always try to bring some great food on board. On my most recent trip from California to the Midwest (on Southwest), I carried a rustic Italian torta filled with chard, feta and potato; homemade cookies; and perfectly ripe peaches and melons. On the way back, it was less exciting, but still decent: good cheese, Michigan peaches, crackers, homemade jam bars.

In one of his early compilations, Calvin Trillin told a funny story of a flight from NY to Miami on which he brought and ate a complicated multi-course meal. The story is infused, of course, with Trillin's inimitable dry wit.

I just started reading Nasty Bits (Anthony Bourdain) where he keeps mentioning The French Laundry Cookbook, which I never really heard of. Started searching for it today which led me to your older Blog and then to this one. I can't stop reading! You are fantastic! I can't wait to make the Watermelon pickles. Is there anything else you would use that brine for? It looks too easy ...

I usually bring a bunch of tamari almonds, dates, crackers, cut up fruit, walnuts, soynuts, etc. Flying super early in the morning is not exactly conducive towards making a full on sandwich, but my snacks usually get me through.

we had wonderful watermelon rind pickles at sovana bistro. your recipe is very simple and i plan to try it adding some spices . what they did was slice the chunks cardboard thin and place on top of a watermelon feta salad. your recipe is the easiest i've seen. thank

I just finished pickling watermelon rinds, I used the recipe in "Canning: for a new generation" written by Lianna Krissoff 2010. The recipe is a little more involved...a couple days more of messing with them for a few minuteshere and there. In the end it is like gluten free the cinnabon-ish cinnamon roll recipe on food.com, a lot of work BUT WORTH IT!!! Besides,looking at the pretty jars of translucent green and pink rinds is also just as satisfying.

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