M: Pickling is always part of summertime around here. By the time autumn rolls around, you can find quarts and quarts of pickled this and that in my pantry. If you’ve got a flavor profile or pickling method, I’m game. But what I’m always looking for is that crisp pickle. I’ve had decent success by making sure the blossom end of my cuke is clipped. Alum or pickling lime were popular for a long time, but seem to be out of favor these days. I am told Ball’s “Pickle Crisp” does the job, but calcium chloride just sounds so, I don’t know, artificial. So what’s a fella to do?
So here’s the deal with the grape leaves. I always kind of assumed the grape leaves were a flavor enhancer, but in researching this recipe I found that it isn’t really about flavor, it’s about the tannins. Apparently, the tannins found in grape leaves inhibit the enzymes that cause the cucumber to soften during the pickling process. I kind of thought clipping that blossom end (which is where those enzymes originate) would make this a non-issue, but why not? As always, I’m game. I picked some grape leaves from a vine growing over by my brother’s place and stuck them in the jar.
I am pleased to report these were some delightfully crisp pickles. Maybe I had some nice, young cukes, maybe the temperature was just so. Or maybe it was the grape leaves. In any case, I’ll do this again. Not only were these pickles crisp and tasty, but those grape leaves just look so cool in the jar.
Recipe: Grape Leaf Pickles
Summary: Natural tannins in the grape leaves give this traditional pickle its coveted crunch. From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.
- 1 c Pickling Salt
- 2 gallons Water
- 25 Grape Leaves
- 50-60 Green Grapes
- 1 1/2 gal. Pickling Cucumbers
- Dissolve salt in water in a large bowl.
- Layer 1/3 of grape leaves in bottom of large crock or glass jar.
- Add half of cucumbers and half of grapes to crock, crushing grapes slightly as you go to allow brine to permeate.
- Add another 1/3 of grape leaves in layer.
- Add other half of cucumbers and grapes.
- Cover with remaining grape leaves.
- Pour salt brine into crock.
- Fill a large ziploc bag with water and seal. Press bag down on cucumbers to submerge them completely.
- Let rest 2-3 days in a cool place.
- After 2-3 days lift bag, remove scum from surface and replace bag.
- After a week or so, taste daily until flavor is to taste.
- Once desired flavor is reached, pack pickles in jars and move to refrigerator to end process.
Originally: Grape Leaf Pickles