Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Quick Pickled Grapes

People often thinking of pickling as a daunting task. It can involve sterilizing mason jars, extended wait times, and washing and cutting huge batches of vegetables or fruits. I love pickled things, and I love the craft of food preservation. But one of the things I love most about pickles is their flavor: briny acidic notes that wake up your taste buds with tang and oomph. A quick pickling process can achieve great flavor when you don't as much time or patience.

I'll never say no to a classic dill pickle, but I've also fallen in love with pickled fruits.  Fruits are perfect for pickling; their sweetness allows for that sweet/sour combination of flavor that is so complex and satisfying. From watermelon to peaches, strawberries to plums, there are so many options. It all depends on the season and what's available. In fall, I love to quick pickle grapes. I'll serve them as an accompaniment to a cheese platter, or thinly sliced in a salad (with hearty greens, toasted almonds, ricotta salata, and a good vinaigrette). They're sweet and acidic, aromatic and crisp.

A few notes: You definitely taste the garlic in these grapes. If that's not a flavor you're into, skip the clove of garlic. If you can't get your hands on pink peppercorn, you can skip that ingredient or just add more black peppercorn. In fact, you can skip a lot of the spices. They key elements are vinegar, salt, and sugar - the rest is up to you. I use this brine for lots of pickles. Aside from grapes, I also love it for shallots or red onion. A pickled onion is a great addition to sandwiches, salads, or as a topping for grilled meats.

These quick pickled grapes are easy to make and look great on a plate. They're not for long-term preserving, but they'll do great in the fridge for a week or so (they'll develop more pickle flavor the longer they cure). And you can easily swap out the grapes for another fall fruit: like persimmon or late autumn plums

Quick Pickled Grapes

1 lb. red seedless grapes (about 4 cups)
1½  cups white wine vinegar
½ cup water
juice of 1 orange
3 strips orange zest
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
½ tablespoon pink peppercorn
½ tablespoon black peppercorn
5 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 stick cinnamon
1 garlic clove

Trim the tops off of the grapes. This will allow the pickling brine to fully penetrate and flavor the grape. Place the grapes in a heatproof mason jar or bowl.

In a small pot, bring the vinegar, water, orange juice and zest, salt, sugar, peppercorn, cloves, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick to a boil.

Simmer for 2-3 minutes until the salt and sugar has fully dissolved, and all of the flavors have melded together. Pour the brine mixture over the grapes.

Transfer the grapes to a jar or air tight container. Let the grapes marinade for at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight in the fridge. Grapes will keep for up to one week in the fridge.

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