Pickles can be fermented – when the natural microbes present in the fruits, vegetables or plants grown under certain conditions, thus preventing the growth of harmful microbes that can cause disease or the food to spoil, or unfermented – when the protection from microbes comes from the addition of an acid. Since fermented pickles can take a few months to be ready to be consumed, I decided to use grapes to make an unfermented pickle.
They key for unfermented pickles is the use of wine or vinegar as acid, which must be heated to prevent spoilage. Although its flavor is not as strong if compared to a fermented pickle, spices and sugar are often added as a flavor enhancer. Salt is also an important element, as it can reinforce the crispness of the fruit or vegetable and is also a very important preservative.
The original recipe can be found at this location.
- 1 lb red or black grapes, preferably seedless
- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 cup granulated sugar (I used brown sugar)
- 1½ tsp brown mustard seeds
- 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 1 2 1/2-inch cinnamon stick cut in half
- ¼ tsp salt
- Wash and dry the grapes, then pull their stems out. Using a paring knife, cut away the stem end of each grape, exposing a little of the grape’s flesh. Place them in one or two clean and dry canning jars.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, and the spices. Put it over medium heat until it boils.
- Pour the liquid over the grapes. Once it is cool, place the jar in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Serve it cold.
So, is it good?
This is not the typical recipe I would make, as it has a lot of sugar, but I decided to give it a try because I was very curious what it would taste like. After I finished preparing the recipe, I was a little skeptical about the result. The brine – the mixture of acid and spices – left the kitchen with a wonderful spices aroma, but once I got close to smell it, I got a very pungent smell of vinegar. I also had no idea of what to expect from it, being something I had never tried before.
One thing is for sure, it sure looked very good. Just as good as the original recipe, which was a relief. After 48 hours, I opened the jar and the strong acid smell was even stronger. But once I tasted it, it exceeded my expectations. The texture of the grapes was still crisp and firm, but the inside seems to melt in the mouth. Of course, it is a bit sweeter than the raw grape, but not overly sweet. Maybe because of the acidity, maybe because of the delicious mix of spices. Somehow, the combination of all the ingredients works very well.
I ate it with cream cheese and bread, and that was a wise choice. Once you bite into the bread, you can hear the grape pop in the mouth. The acid taste is very subtle and pleasant. It helps to balance the heaviness of the bread and the texture of the cream cheese.
As stated before, the pickling flavor is not very strong, as in fermented pickles, but I believe it will intensify the longer it sits in the refrigerator. As it is now, it could be a great option as an aperitif. It is uncommon and surprising, as it appeals strongly to many of our tastes, but in the end, all that matters is that it is delicious.