I have never been a pickle lover. That is to say, I like pickles but I have never loved them. When a dill spear comes along side a sandwich at a deli, I often leave it untouched. But sometimes I do like a pickle or two on my hamburger. Given my lukewarm feelings about pickles, I’ve found it a bit odd that I have a mounting obsession around the art of pickle making… and the many varieties of pickles to be made. It started with the bread and butter pickles which to me were as much about canning as they were about pickling. But the success of those homemade pickles went to my head, and has lead to visions of fruit pickles, Asian pickles, watermelon rind pickles… all dancing around in my mind for a couple of months now. So I’ve gone about collecting pickle recipes and ideas from books and blogs and have tucked them away for the right moment. Pickled grapes with cinnamon and black pepper is one such recipe. It sounded just odd enough that I had to try it. The recipe comes from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg (I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it’s worth mentioning again that A Homemade Life is a wonderful book).
So when I stumbled upon these lovely red seedless grapes at the farmers’ market, I knew what I had to do. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into but I was excited just the same. Between the description from Molly in her book and the write up by Deb from Smitten Kitchen I knew they had to be good. (I mean, if Molly served them at her wedding, they have to be good… right?). Too impatient to wait eight hours, I tasted the grapes as soon as the brine went on… just to get an idea of how the flavors came together. And even though the grapes had not yet soaked in any of the vinegary tartness, I could tell it was going to be anything but boring.
Reluctantly, I put the pickles in the refrigerator to chill overnight. As soon as I woke up the next morning, I walked straight to the kitchen and tasted them… before breakfast. And again after breakfast. By dinnertime, I had finished over half a jar by myself. The flavors are complex and addictive. I really like these pickled grapes but I can’t quite explain why. I keep eating them hoping I can find the right words to describe them but alas, have not found the right ones yet… I guess I will have to keep tasting. I will make these again (and maybe next time I’ll share them with someone else).
Pickled Grapes with Cinnamon and Black Pepper
(adapted from A Homemade Life where it is adapted from Susan Kaplan)
1 pound red or black grapes, preferably seedless
1 cup white wine vinegar (I used chardonnay vinegar)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds (I used yellow mustard seeds)
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 (2 1/2 inch) cinnamon stick (I cut it in half since I used two jars)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Rinse and dry the grapes, and pull them carefully from their stems. Using a small, sharp knife, trim away the “belly button” at the stem end of the grape, exposing a bit of the flesh inside. Put the grapes into a medium bowl and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then pour the mixture over the grapes. Stir to combine. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
While the grapes cool, wash 2 pint-sized canning jars and their lids in warm, soapy water. When the grapes are cool, ladle them into the jars. Chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Serve cold. (Makes about 3 cups)