At first, pickled grapes seemed like an unlikely delicacy to me. But then I remembered how fantastic other fruits like watermelon rind and peaches taste when pickled, so I decided to give them a try last weekend. Wow. If you're a fan of crunchy, tart, refreshing, spiced-and-spicy things then this recipe is for you. It's a quick one, too!
This recipe is based on one from Duskie Estes from Bovolo restaurant in Sonoma, CA. It results in a crisp, deeply spiced pickle that goes really well with cocktails and stronger cheeses, or on an antipasto platter. These are intense, so choose accompaniments that can stand up to the complexity of the spices. An aged cheddar or washed-rind cheese come to mind. It might be fun to use them in place of an olive in a martini, too.
My only change was to substitute sichuan peppercorns for the two jalapeno peppers called for in the original recipe, simply because I was fresh out of jalapenos. I like the intense spiciness of the sichuan peppercorns and plan to continue to use them. I imagine that the jalapenos would present a more clean, straightforward heat.
Spicy Pickled Grapes
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup of water
6 fresh ginger coins, about 1/4-inch thick
3 star anise
1/2 teaspoon sichuan peppercorns
2 tablespoons coriander
2 cinnamon sticks
1 bay leaf
1 pound red grapes, picked, rinsed clean and drained
In a non-reactive pan, combine everything but the grapes and bring to a simmer to dissolve the sugar.
Place the grapes in a bowl that can take heat and pour the brine over. Let steep until cool. Store in glass jars in the refrigerator up to one month.
Note: My grapes were 5 days old by the time I finished them off. They did get spicier the longer they sat, but I'm not sure what a month in the refrigerator will do to them. These are so good, however, that it's likely they won't last that long!
(Images: Dana Velden)