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Eat ‘em up: Pickled grapes

May 21, 2008

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I think pickling may be the next big thing.

Yes, you heard it here first. Granted, I have never accurately called a trend. Molecular gastronomy still sounds to me like an uncomfortable side effect of eating too many beans. I like farmer’s markets because they’re outside, not because I know the ingredients are locally sourced. And I’m pretty much still scratching my head about who this Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana person is…

And yet, I think I my husband may be onto something with his newfound craze for pickling. After all, pickling is an important part of some other food cultures (think: Korea). Why not ours? Maybe pickling is ripe for the same kind of fanfare BBQ receives in this country. You know: People traveling around in Airstream trailers with their secret pickling recipes, folks lining up at tents in the summertime tasting pickle after pickle, huge trophies lining the mantle of a man with a handlebar mustache and large gut.

No?

Well, like I said, I don’t actually have an eye for trends. But I do have a mouth for tasting… and my husband’s pickled grapes are going down the hatch. They’re sweet and aromatic — just open the jar and the divine aroma of cinnamon and clove wafts up to seduce you. But they’re also sour and complex — your mouth can’t help but pucker a touch at the healthy dose of vinegar all good pickles require. And then, finally, they’re grapes. Sweet, firm, purple gems of fruit that maintain that great texture amid all the whiz-bang of the pickling juices.

Yup, pickles are the next big thing. Well, in my mouth, at least.
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And now, the husband’s take…

So, yes, pickled grapes. It’s not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when discussing pickling. Other things that might come first? Well, pickled pickles (duh), pickled watermelon rind, pickled ginger, pickled zucchini, pickled onions… even the truly brave act of fermenting cabbage like the Koreans, Germans, Austrians, and Alsatians do to make kimchi and sauerkraut.

I think, then, that the pickled grape may be a hard sell. Yet, I will encourage, cajole, and perhaps even threaten.

I first came across pickled grapes at Farrah Olivia, a restaurant in Alexandria, VA. They were served as a garnish. The idea was pretty incredible: They were a combination of sweet and sour that caught you off guard. At the restaurant, the grapes were served as a small bunch still attached to the stems, and you had little idea of the intense flavor you were about to receive. Being inspired, I decided to work on my own recipe featuring a bit more spice and tang by altering a recipe I’ve used to pickle beets — yes, I admit to a growing obsession with pickling.

The result is a pickled grape with a sneaky spike of clove, cinnamon and allspice, along with the familiar and delicious sour and sweet of a traditional pickle. The grapes also happen to be the perfect pair for beer and cheese. Served along with semi-hard cheeses with plenty of salt and with a good beer, they work as an excellent palette cleanser. Three tasty treats together on one plate? Happiness for me!

Other than its deliciousness and its sublime pairing with beer and cheese, there is another argument in the pickled grape’s favor: simplicity. If you are not a person experienced with pickling, this is a good starter recipe. It’s quick, needs no knife, and requires only a little bit of patience and space in the refrigerator. In the end, this is a lot of benefit for little work. I use the free time it allows me to indulge my other obsessions… or threaten others to try the grapes.

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Pickled Grapes

Ingredients:
1/2 lb. red grapes (seedless)
1 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup orange juice (2 medium naval oranges)
8 whole allspice berries
8 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp. salt

Directions:
1. Clean both the grapes and the container where you will store the pickles. Remove the grapes from the stem and place in container.

2. In a small pot, add the vinegar, orange juice, spices and salt. Bring to a simmer and then remove from heat. Pour over the grapes.

3. Close, cover and place in refrigerator. Flavor will develop overnight, but will start to really express after 5 days.

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12 comments

  1. Wow. This sounds fascinating. I made spicy pickles last summer and it’s been in the back of my head since then to experiment with some other things. I will have to give this a try!


  2. Is there anything you can’t pickle? I’m sure there is, but really, almost everything is fair game. My current favorites are pickled okra and hot green tomato pickles.


  3. This does sound quite interesting. It would make for good conversation at a summer bbq too :)


  4. Try cherries – so yummy when pickled.

    I’ll be making your recipe this weekend to have next week with beer and cheese! Thanks!


  5. wow, wonderful idea! Sounds perfect for picnics, house-warmings or any other event where you could make it up the night before for ease, convenience and lots of wonderful reactions. I can’t wait to try it.


  6. My mother used a similar recepie for pickling pumpkin. The pumpkin was cooked in a vinegar/sugar/spice mixture till the edges were transparent, then put in canning jars and eaten months later. The flavor was amazing, and I swore you could put sneakers in that solution and have them taste great. My mother told me NEVER to eat it right after making it. But like so many other things she told me not to do, I tried it, and it’s great. I haven’t done grapes yet, so I’m off to try that now.


  7. As a PROFESSIONAL CHEF, I think I will pass on this one. Sorry, but “pickled” grapes just do not appeal to me at all.


  8. You know, I still have some in the fridge that you gave me. I think they are great for a certain flavor fix. The clove-yness (I think part of my head just melted trying to write that out) with the sweet and the acid is so specific but somehow it all works. I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but neither are big hoppy IPA’s. Just means there’s more for the rest of us. Thanks again for the grapes!


  9. We would like to feature this recipe on our blog. Please email haleyglasco@gmail.com if interested. Thanks :)

    Haley

    http://blog.keyingredient.com/


  10. Hi,
    Accidentally found you while I was looking for something else-I am new to blogging & no computer whiz kid, so I have to work my way through things.
    LOVE the pickled grape idea & can’t wait to make a batch. I have been canning (including pickling) for years & we “introduced” some new recipes (such as Hot Hawaiian pineapple pickles) to the LA county fair a few years back and won some ribbons. Pickled cantaloupe balls also took some blue ribbons. Right now we have about 30 quarts of cabbage fermenting in the garage; I expect to be canning sauerkraut in a few weeks. What caught my eye is that you guys are from Cincinnati. So am I but I have been living in California for over 40 years so I think that makes me a native.
    Great website – I love your photos. I haven’t tried that yet.
    Sandy from sandychatter.wordpress.


  11. Why can’t this be done successfully with seedless green grapes; like Thompson Seedless? I happen to have a huge crop this year, and plan to try this regardless. But was wondering if anyone knew why all of the recipes I found for pickled grapes, stated one should use RED seedless?!?
    Thanks!


  12. [...] I looked it up and found two recipes, one using white wine vinegar, one using red wine vinegar. So I tried them both [...]



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