Tis the season, but I can’t stop pickling….tra la la la la, la la la….la
These autumn-spiced pickles are my new favorite: full of warm, subtle spices in every bite.They’re flavored with cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, allspice, and ginger, all spices that would be just as welcome in mulled wine and pumpkin pie. I opted for slightly tart, Newton Pippin apples here, because you want something that offers both a sweet and tart bite, such as Granny Smith and McIntosh. The pears were fairly hard Comice, but any crisp variety will do — I bet juicy Asian pears would be wonderful. Since I got my hands on Artisan Vegan Cheese in 2012, I’ve commenced an obsessive, vegan cheese culturing streak that’s yet to end, forever with a bunch of bowls and trays on my windowsill, and awkwardly labeled containers in the back of my fridge. Just yesterday, a friend asked me if I had any leftover cheese sitting around to bring over for an appetizer spread, and you know the answer. Since all of this cheese starts taking over my kitchen, sharing these projects (er, have I mentioned that I’m mildly allergic to tree nuts? so, you really must come over some time) and getting the goods off my hands has led to a whole lot of entertaining. J. Legume and I have been throwing intimate dinner parties left and right, particularly as we’ve been making an effort to stay in more. Back in early September, I went all out at Lauren’s Speakeasy, and really, whenever we have friends stop by, I find myself putting together a little something something. Break out the wooden cutting board, dish out a cheese or two or three, and start plating small bowls and mini forks for the pickles and olives. I have a hard time picturing my fridge without them. And just like the world of cheeses, I’ve been playing around in the world of quick pickles, the most recent being these autumnal apples and pears. They’re loosely inspired by the Korean pickled pears at Biwa and a friend’s melt-in-your-mouth, soft pickled peaches that I realized were everything I wanted to make at first taste. It was one of those moments you want to race home and get to work, screw the party. So, there I go, frantically pickling at least half of the produce that comes through my door, and as it goes, I have my go-tos (hello, new dills) but I want every other batch to go some place new (Cue pickled avocado, Indian hot pickles and lemongrass green beans). The point is, it was quickly clear that these spiced, pickled apples and pears were the appropriate, conversation-making accompaniments for last week’s Vida Vegan holiday class, using the best-looking local fruits I could find at the farm stand, pickled in a jar, with a little something extra. And here we are.
Note: Coconut vinegar, found in both light and dark varieties, is a lovely, mellow fruit vinegar that you can find at Asian markets. I’ve gone through two bottles of Sagana brand in recent months. Make sure to look for a ‘plain’ variety vs. “spicy”. The following recipe is heavy on the spices, but if you’re short or wary, simply cut down and have a milder spiced, nevertheless pleasant, fruit pickle.
Spiced, Pickled Apples & Pears in Coconut Vinegar
2 tart apples, cored and sliced, peeled if desired
2 hard pears, cored and sliced into ¼ inch pieces, ditto
1.5 cups coconut vinegar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cup water
1 cup brown or coconut palm sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
¼ cup sliced ginger, peeled
3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1 teaspoon allspice
2 black cardamom pods
2 teaspoons whole white or black peppercorns
3 star anise pods
- Equally divide the fruit and kosher salt into multiple jars or one large jar. I forget where I read this, but it can be easier to place the jars on their sides when you’re adding the pickles-to-be.
- In a medium sauce pan, bring the remainder of the ingredients to a boil [just like any other pickle brine].
- Immediately pour the hot mixture over the fruit, let cool completely without a lid, and refrigerate with a lid when at room temperature.
- If it’s easier, you can do like I do, and let cool (which was then covered with a large plate) in a bowl, and then add to jars.
- Let the pickled fruit refrigerate at least 8 hours before enjoying.
These pickles are a lovely addition to cheese plates paired with both mild, creamy cheeses and strong, aged cheeses alike, would so work in a smokey tempeh sandwich and will surely play nicely on your upcoming vegetarian charcuterie boards.
Will keep for three months, refrigerated.
If you’re left with extra brining liquid, bottle it, consider it a shrub, and use sparingly in future winter cocktails.
If you need more water for the jars, your fruit was evidently gigantic, but simply top the mixtures off, until the fruit is covered, with warm water as needed.
P.S. It was fairly tempting to call these “Gingerbread-spiced”, but I had to draw the line somewhere.