Pickle Grapes for a Surprisingly Good Time

Some pickles – cucumbers, onions, and even carrots – are obvious, but grapes are not an obvious pickle. Grapes are an amazing pickle, an unexpected pickle, an intriguing pickle. If you leave them intact during the fermentation process, they will turn into a carbonated brine.

They are also very easy to prepare. While “milk fermentation” sounds like science (and has the potential to contain a lot of milk), it’s a fairly simple (and dairy-free) process. “Lacto” refers to the bacteria Lactobacillus, a naturally occurring bacteria that converts sugar into lactic acid when placed in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment. Lactic acid gives the marinade a pleasant aftertaste, and salt inhibits unwanted bacterial growth, allowing our beneficial bacteria to do their thing.

The most common lactic pickles are cabbage and carrots, but a Twitter friend suggested lactating some grapes, and now I am obsessed with the savory tangy chunks that are perfect for cheese platters. While you can lacto-ferment your grapes in liquid brine, you can skip it all by using a vacuum sealer, which creates a fantastic environment for our friendly bacteria. To make these unexpected pickles, you will need:

  • Grapes (washed)
  • Salt without iodine (iodine can inhibit fermentation)
  • Vacuum sealer and vacuum bags

Decide how many grapes you want to pickle and weigh them. Pay attention to the weight and weigh the amount of salt that is two percent of your grape’s weight. (For example, if you have 100 grams of grapes, you will need 2 grams of salt.) If desired, divide the grapes in half and drop into a vacuum bag. Add salt, mix everything and close the bags. Let the grapes stand at room temperature. After a day (or maybe even earlier), they will begin to bubble. After about a week, the bubbles will begin to subside. Once they do, your grapes are ready to eat.

If you left the grapes intact, it is possible that some of these bubbles are stuck under the skin. This will make an effervescent pickle, which is fun, but the effect will fade over time, so put a few in your mouth right out of the bag. Serve spicy and slightly quirky grapes with cheese and jerky, or slice them up for salsa or chutney and use brine in marinades, dressings, and sauces. Store pickles in the refrigerator, where they should last for at least a few months.


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