You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Cooking

Bright ideas

Here’s a secret weapon to amp up your next cheese platter: little pickles.

Simple Pickled Golden Raisins, Spicy Pickled Grapes, and Sherry-Pickled Garlic.

Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

Simple pickled golden raisins, spicy pickled grapes, and sherry-pickled garlic.

At some point during party season, the same old cubes of cheddar and little wedges of brie start to feel like, well, the same old. Adding some simple sweet-tart pickles to the mix, though, breathes new life into a cheese platter. Grapes, raisins, dried blueberries, and garlic cloves soaked in brines tangy with vinegar, fragrant with spices, and just sweet enough are great with cheese, cured meats, and pates or alongside holiday roast pork, lamb, turkey, or chicken. The garlic cloves, which keep their garlicky flavor but lose their raw bite, are also terrific chopped or sliced on sandwiches and with antipasto. All the pickles make nice, simple holiday gifts as well. Tell recipients to refrigerate them, because they’re not “put up” in sterilized jars.

SPICY PICKLED GRAPES

Makes about 1 quart

1¾ cups white vinegar

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed

1½ tablespoons coriander seeds, lightly toasted and lightly crushed

1 cinnamon stick

8 whole cloves

Salt

3½ cups mixed red and green seedless grapes

1 2-by-1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, cut into 4 pieces, each smashed with the side of a knife

1 medium jalapeno or Fresno chili, seeds left in and sliced thin, or more to taste

½ medium lemon, cut lengthwise into quarters, and each quarter cut crosswise into thin slices

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the vinegar, sugars, coriander, cinnamon stick, cloves, and ¾ teaspoon salt to a strong simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugars. Adjust the heat to medium-low and simmer to blend flavors, about 5 minutes. Off heat, cool the mixture until just warm.

Continue reading below

Poke each grape deeply with a fork and place with the ginger and chili in a medium nonreactive bowl. Pour the warm vinegar mixture over grape mixture, submerging the grapes in the liquid. Cool the grapes to room temperature, add the lemon, stir, cover, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 2 weeks.

SHERRY-PICKLED GARLIC

Makes about 1 cup

Using really fresh garlic from a farmers’ market or other local source makes a difference here. Garlic differs, though, so if yours is strong, it may need more time to mellow in the fridge — 24 hours is a minimum.

2 heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled (about 1 cup cloves)

2/3 cup white wine vinegar

½ cup amontillado sherry

2 tablespoons sugar

Kosher salt

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, cracked

1 teaspoon toasted fennel seeds, bruised

1 large bay leaf

1 small dried red chili, slit up the side

8 sprigs thyme, bruised

4 strips lemon zest

Cut any large garlic cloves in half lengthwise and poke the remaining cloves deeply with a fork, and set aside.

Jim Scherer

TIP: Poking grapes with a fork before pickling gives the brine a way in, allowing for better flavor.

Continue reading it below

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the vinegar, sherry, sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, peppercorns, fennel seeds, bay leaf, and chili to a strong simmer. Continue to simmer, swirling the pan occasionally, to blend flavors, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and lemon zest, submerge them in the liquid, and simmer for about 30 seconds. Off heat, set the pan aside to cool to room temperature. Transfer the mixture to another container, if desired (make sure garlic is fully submerged), cover, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 2 weeks (the garlic will continue to mellow and improve for the first couple of days).

SIMPLE PICKLED GOLDEN RAISINS

Makes about 1½ cups

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

½ cup cider vinegar

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

3 bay leaves

Salt

1½ cups golden raisins

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook the mustard seeds, swirling the pan constantly, until they are fragrant and begin to pop, about 3 minutes. Add the vinegar, ¾ cup water, sugar, rosemary, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, and ½ teaspoon salt, adjust heat to medium-high, and bring to a strong simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Adjust the heat to medium-low and simmer to blend flavors, about 4 minutes. Add the raisins, return to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the raisins begin to soften, about 3 minutes longer. Off heat, set the pan aside to cool to room temperature. Transfer the mixture to another container, if desired (make sure raisins are fully submerged), cover, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 2 weeks.

PICKLED DRIED BLUEBERRIES WITH LEMON

Makes about 1½ cups

Dried blueberries are available at Trader Joe’s.

¾ cup red wine vinegar

½ cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

Pinch ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground coriander

2 bay leaves

1 1-by-1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, cut into 2 pieces, each smashed with the side of a knife

Salt

½ teaspoon fine-ground pepper, freshly milled

1½ cups dried blueberries

1½ tablespoons julienned zest from 1 small lemon

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the vinegar, ½ cup water, sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves, coriander, bay leaves, ginger, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to a strong simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Adjust the heat to medium-low and simmer to blend flavors, about 4 minutes. Add the blueberries, return to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the blueberries begin to soften, about 3 minutes longer. Off heat, set the pan aside to cool to room temperature. Add the lemon zest, transfer the mixture to another container, if desired (make sure the blueberries are fully submerged), cover, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 2 weeks.

Send comments to cooking@globe.com.

Loading comments...

Wake up with today's top stories.

Want each day's news headlines delivered fresh to your
inbox every morning? Just connect with us
in one of the following ways:
or
Please enter a valid email
BostonGlobe.com will never post anything without asking.
Privacy Policy
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com