Except your nostrils—don't do that

By Stacey Ballis
Updated October 11, 2018
Credit: Photo by Stacey Ballis

I never get tired of pickles. I love extra-tart, vinegary cornichons that make the corners of my jaw clench, sweet bread and butter pickles, and every level of saltysoursweet in between. Give me artisanal wood barrel fermented hipster pickles and super janky gas station pickles that come in the plastic single serve pouch full of toxic waste green brine. Pickle me veggies from asparagus to zucchini, and fruits from kumquats to watermelon rind. I’ll take a pickled walnut if you have one lying about. And while I personally draw the line at the jars of pickled eggs and bologna and pigs feet in dive bars off lesser known highways, I understand the impulse of those who indulge.

I especially love a quick pickle, or quickle as we call them at my house. Think of a lightly pickled cucumber salad to go with fatty meats, or a fast pickled red onion to perk up sandwiches. We use pickled grapes for everything from a martini garnish instead of an onion, or a swap-out for pickle relish in tuna salad, to a special addition to a cheese platter. If I’m serving a meat terrine or rillettes, I make a little salad with sliced pickled grapes and whole leaves of parsley, which would also be great on bone marrow if you are of a mind to start roasting femurs. And a great riff on a Parisian jambon beurre sandwich (the single greatest sandwich on the planet) is a chunk of baguette, a smear of sweet butter, a thin shingling of mild ham and some sliced pickled grapes instead of cornichons for a lunch so good you might just eat it again for dinner.

However you use them, this is a back pocket recipe you’ll turn to again and again. Feel free to swap out the spices, too. Star anise is great in this, as is cardamom and grains of paradise. Some slices of ginger wouldn’t go amiss. Use it as a base and go from there.

Pickled Grapes

1/2 pound grapes, preferably seedless, washed and dried
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 (2 1/2-inch) cinnamon stick


Cut a small piece of the stem end off of the grapes, and place them in a large glass jar or container.

In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, bring the vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, peppercorns, and cinnamon stick to a simmer, just to dissolve the sugar. Set aside and let cool for about 30 minutes to steep the ingredients. Remove the cinnamon stick and nestle it into the grapes in the jar. Pour the cooled brine over the grapes and let cool completely on the counter before transferring to the fridge to chill overnight.