My love of vinegar knows no bounds. As a kid, I would sip dill pickle juice like a fine wine. As an adult, I can survive with no less than twelve homemade pickles in my fridge at any given time. My current obsession: pickled fruit. When most people encounter pickled fruit for the first time, they assume it will taste like a traditional American pickled cucumber, steeped in garlic, dill and salt. Ignore that thought. The best pickled fruit uses a vinegar sugar syrup to highlight the natural sweet and tart flavors in fruit, and are a great excuse to preserve your seasonal favorites. Feel free to experiment with different spices and flavored vinegars (as long as the vinegar has 5 percent acidity). Just be sure to not change the amounts of vinegar and sugar if you are going to water bath can the pickle or you’ll change the acidity and shelf-stability of it. Here are some fruit pickles to get you started:
I think of pickled cherries as a gateway fruit pickle. They were my first foray into pickled fruit, a good mix of sweet and tart that pairs great with a vinegar syrup. With such a short season, pickling cherries helps me extend one of my favorite summer fruits well into winter. Pickled cherries pair well with a variety of spices. Sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger are pretty common, as is anything spicy like black peppercorn and chili peppers. I like this recipe from Headspace Cooking and Canning blog because it uses apple cider vinegar, which compliments the cherries nicely. It’s a great base recipe that’s easy to customize, and pairs well with duck or goat cheese and a little prosciutto on a cracker. Pour the syrup into sparkling water or your favorite cocktail for a little extra zip.
For pickled peaches, you’ll want to use peaches that are ripe but still a bit firm. Much like cherries, peaches can stand up to a variety of strong spices and flavors.This recipe from Rosemarried combines bourbon, spicy flavors like black peppercorns and red pepper flakes, and sweet spices like cloves, allspice and vanilla. Try them over ice cream or in a grilled cheese or ham sandwich, and use the pickling syrup in a sweet vinaigrette for salad.
Plums are quite possibly the most perfect fruit to pickle. Their sweet flesh combined with their tart skin and pickling syrup is addicting. This recipe from Food in Jars is great because it pairs spicy with exotic sweet spices like star anise and clove. It also tastes great with Chinese five spice or a hint of cardamom and ginger. These plums are a welcome addition to any cheese platter, salad, and over shortcakes with some lightly sweetened whipped cream. Try the syrup brushed over baby back ribs.
Apricots are so delicately flavored, you’ll want to go easy on whatever spices or seasonings you add to the syrup. Whether you want your pickled apricot sweet, spicy or herby, less is more with this fruit. This Country Living recipe uses minimal spices and is easy to customize. Try serving these with your favorite pork chops, or puree the fruit with the syrup, add a little water and churn into a seriously flavorful sorbet.
The natural tart and sweet flavors in blackberries make them a great fruit to pickle. Blackberries are delicate, so don’t be surprised if they soften a bit during the pickling process. Larder Love’s recipe is simple, letting the flavor of the fruit really shine. These would go great on a charcuterie platter or with a nice triple cream brie.
Blueberries are another delicate fruit that you don’t need to cook prior to pickling. They will inevitably turn a little more jammy than a firmer fruit like cherries would, but still tastes delicious, especially when paired with fish, pork or an arugula salad with a little salty cheese like feta. The gingery pickled blueberries recipe from Food in Jars uses nothing but fresh ginger for flavor. Blueberries go well with a wide range of spices, from black peppercorns to cinnamon to herbs like thyme and bay leaf.
Cranberries are already tart, so this pickling syrup sweetens them up and infuses them with whatever spices you desire. They are a great alternative to cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, and also go great on turkey sandwiches or with roasted meat. When it comes to spices, treat these cranberries like you would if you were just cooking them for the holidays. Orange, ginger, sweet and hot spices all go well with cranberries. Try Sean Timberlake’s recipe over at About.com, which combines sweet spices like cloves, allspice and cinnamon with a little heat from black peppercorns.
Technically, these aren’t a seasonal fruit, but raisins are a great way to dip your toe into the fruit pickle pool without much work. They’re sweet, available year round, and are very versatile when it comes to spices. This recipe from Suzanne Goin at Food and Wine creates such a unique set of flavors (herby with spicy and sweet), and works well as a base recipe if you want to change the flavors. I like using pickling spice or cinnamon and nutmeg, and I serve them with poultry, pork, in an Indian curry for pop of flavor, and in a cold salad of roasted broccoli with a mint chimichurri sauce and croutons.