I made a recipe this week that has been in my bookmarked favorites ever since it first came to my attention: pickled grapes. Yes, grapes. Having no experience with pickling anything whatsoever, I was both intimidated (unnecessarily, as it turns out) and intrigued by the concept of pickling fruit, but this recipe falls solidly into a category of recipes that always sucks me in: Things That Are Not What You Expect Them To Be. Savory muffins? Check. Sweet tomato topping? Check. Peppery biscotti? Check, after much difficulty. Pickled fruit? Now, thankfully, check.
The nice thing about this recipe is that it's dead easy. I haven't, truthfully, been cooking much since I returned from Alaska; what with the bike accident, the catching up on everything internet related, and going back to work, I've just been too tired and overwhelmed to do much in the kitchen. It's partially a slight case of food apathy and partially just a shudder of horror at the idea of having to do more than a few dishes, but I've been eating poorly and saying to myself, "Well, tomorrow maybe I'll make something non-frozen..." Gross. Hopefully these little flavor-packed snacks will help to jolt me off my couch and back to my stovetop. I've certainly eaten enough of them to make me want to get back to good food again. They're also perfect for summertime, although Chicago seems to be spending most of it's warm season stuck in either spring or fall this year. Not that I'm complaining, given that I hate humidity on 90-something days, but still. It's interesting to be living for so long in what I consider transitional seasons.
This recipe came to me via Smitten Kitchen, but I believe it's originally from an adaptation from Molly Wizenberg over at Orangette. I made it for a vegan nut cheese party that Rose-Anne set up this week, along with some vegan gluten-free brownie-esque things that also (miraculously, perhaps) turned out well. I've been eating them straight from the jar ever since I brought the leftovers home; the combination of crisp firm grapes and the sweet spicy vinegar-y brine has completely sucked me in. These might make an excellent addition to a summertime salad, or as accompaniment to a cheese platter, or maybe even some sort of tart sweet drink, but they're also absolutely delicious just as they are.
1 lb seedless black or red grapes (or, you know, however many fit in your jar. and I used black seedless grapes)
1 cup white wine vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick, about 2 1/2 inches (cut in half if using two jars)
1/4 tsp salt
Cut the very tip (the bellybutton, as Smitten Kitchen says) off of the grapes and place the fruit inside a large glass jar (I used an empty pasta jar and it worked splendidly). Stir the rest of the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil; remove from heat and pour this mixture into the jar on top of the grapes. I did this while the brine was still hot, which apparently has a possibility of wilting the fruit, but mine were completely firm and crisp the next day so I don't know. You can cool it down first if it makes you feel better, but the hot mixture helps the flavor absorb faster and didn't seem to harm the grapes. Put the lid on, stick it in your fridge, and 8 hours or more later you can sit yourself down for a unique snack of briny sweet grapes.