Monday, February 24, 2014

Pickle me this...

Yesterday was just beautiful. Still a bit cool for my taste, with highs in the low 50s, but nice and sunny, and so, compared to recent weather, rather balmy. So Kenton and I decided to bike the 5 miles or so -- nearly all uphill, thank you very much -- from my place to the Takoma Park farmers' market. I was on the lookout for produce to pickle for my workshop next weekend, and I did leave with a pannier filled with local turnips. I was also tasked with bringing some salad greens for brunch at my dear friend Susan's place, where we'd be heading after the market. I don't know how the chocolate pudding got into my bag. Must've been Kenton's doing.

It's a good thing our ride home was 6 miles of mostly downhill after the double-fondue luncheon. Susan broke out first the smoked salmon and cream cheese, and then the cheese fondue with fresh bread, and then the chocolate and fresh fruit fondue, with plenty of chilled white wine throughout. Lordy, was that a tasty meal. And my salad was well received: a bowl of tender mixed greens, toasted walnuts, and pickled grapes with a curry vinaigrette. (What, like I was just going to bring some greens? C'mon.) It would've been nice with a few little blobs of chevre, but considering the cheesy nature of the bulk of our meal, I opted to leave that out this first go-round.

Pickled grapes?? Yes. I'd been thinking about these since I first heard of pickled grapes at last year's Rooting DC pickling session, so I decided to tinker with a few recipes. This one is adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life.  Delicious in salads (as proven yesterday), or alongside roast chicken, likely tasty in a chicken salad, and definitely as a nibbly alternative to olives (as proven this evening as I type and try not to drip mustard-anise solution on the keyboard).

Pickled Grapes

Combine in an 8oz jar:

  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 5 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp mustard seed
  • 4-5 whole black peppercorns
  • ½ star anise, crushed
  • large pinch salt
  • (you can add a spoonful of sugar if you like, but I find the grapes themselves have plenty)
Once dissolved -- you can speed up the process by simmering the solution in a small pot on the stove before pouring into your jar -- add:

  • grapes (about ¼ lb), preferably seedless, stems removed
  • ½ cinnamon stick
Add additional apple cider vinegar as needed to be sure all grapes are submerged. Seal and refrigerate for 2 days before using.

I'll be leading another session on pickle making at this weekend's Rooting DC conference, but this time along with my favorite refrigerator pickles, I'll have stuff to make these unusual but tasty pickled grapes, as well as lemon rosemary pickled green beans (that I suspect would make for kickin' bloody mary stir sticks...).

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