I’m grateful for many things. My husband and children, first and foremost. My family, friends, neighbors and community – both literal and virtual. My home, the material possessions that make my life comfortable, my country and the natural beauty that surrounds me.
I’m grateful for all of it…every bit, every day, in every way.
And the food; always the food. As we come up upon the most food-centric day of the year, I am mindful that my gratitude also extends to the farmers who grow it, the field hands who pick and pack, the distributors, the truckers, the companies who sell and market to us so we know what is available.
I am grateful for the entire food chain, including the talented cooks and cookbook authors who create new recipes to entice us, who teach us new tricks with old ingredients, and who bring joy to the end game in our kitchens.
My latest discovery is a wonderful book, “Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling and Preserving,” by Kevin West (2013; Alfred A. Knopf; $35). Each page is a revelation, a story about an old-timer who knows his or her stuff, inventive heritage recipes for using up the bounty, gorgeous real world photos, poems as needed for grace, and a quiet authority about the art and science of putting things up.
You could spend a month poring over this worthy book. I intend to.
But before I disappear into these pages and don’t reappear until the new year, I made a recipe that jumped off the page at me and whispered in my ear. I am grateful I succumbed to its charms, because Mrs. Plagemann’s Savory Pickled Grapes is a recipe I’ll make each year in late fall when the California grapes are at their peak.
Catherine Plagemann wrote a 1967 cookbook, “Fine Preserving,” that was considered an obscure masterpiece. The preeminent food writer M.F.K. Fisher discovered it and listed the pickled grapes as one of her favorite recipes, which caused the book to be reprinted in 1986, and thus saved for a new generation. And now Kevin West has thankfully resurrected it again, adapting it in his new book.
Thank you Mrs. Plagemann, M.F.K. Fisher, and Kevin West, for this gift, perfect for the Thanksgiving table.
Recipe: Mrs. Plagemann’s Savory Pickled Grapes
Summary: Sweet and sour pickled grapes are wonderful with sandwiches, cold meats, roasted chicken or turkey, lamb, sausages…anything!
- 3 pounds seedless red Flame grapes (I used green, red and black Muscato Grapes)
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half (I used a 3-inch cinnamon stick in each jar)
- 4 small sprigs fresh or dried thyme (I used a fresh thyme sprig in each jar)
- 2 cups white wine vinegar
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
- Prepare your jars by immersing them and the lids in boiling water for a couple of minutes. This will make them squeaky clean. Remove from water and allow to dry.
- Choose grapes that are freshly picked, firm and crisp. Remove them from the stem and wash well. Pack them snugly into four prepared pint jars. It’s fine to compress the grapes to squeeze in a few more, but don’t crush them. Tuck half a cinnamon stick and a small sprig of thyme into each jar.
- Combine the vinegar, sugar and shallots in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Ladle the boiling syrup over the grapes to cover, seal the jars and store in the refrigerator. This will give you the best texture.
- Serve cold, drained of the syrup.
- For long-term shelf storage, leave a generous ½ inch headspace when you ladle the boiling syrup over the grapes. Seal and process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes (usual canning procedure).
- Makes 4 pint jars.
I made 8 jars. Each of my jars held 27-30 grapes, and I made 1.5 times the recipe to create enough syrup for my 8 jars.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Diet type: Vegan
Number of servings (yield): 4
Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)
Disclosure: The publisher sent a copy of the book for review. Melissa’s Produce sent the grapes for recipe testing. The surfboard bamboo serving board is by Totally Bamboo.