Lately I've been dreaming about relishes, condiments, toppers, cheese tray accruements and the like. Quick pickles--or refrigerator pickles--are a great way to bring some zing to seasonal flavors and then, of course, they can be used in any number of ways. I've become more adventurous with pickling different ingredients this year (I'll credit that to a newly discovered love of shrub cocktails!) and so I decided to quick pickle a batch of gala apples that just came into season. I chose balsamic vinegar because of its sweet syrupy flavor from pressed grapes. Side note: the first time I had really great vinegar was at Olive & Co. in Oklahoma City whose focus is procuring premium olive oils and balsamic vinegars from small-producers. It was the first time I had considered oil and vinegar in the same way that I look at coffee, spirits, chocolate, or even ice cream (hellllo Jeni's!). I had heard that real balsamic vinegar had such a nice sweetness to it that you'd want to pour it over ice cream. It wasn't until that tasting experience that I agreed and now I find myself craving vinegar regularly. The juniper berries in these pickles bring in soft citrus and floral flavors, with a piney-woodsy flavor from the rosemary and spice from the black peppercorns. If you have a hard time tracking down juniper berries, check in the bulk section at your local natural foods store. —Chase the Flavors
Cut apples into quarters and slice away their seeds and core. Cut into 1/4 to 1/3 inch slices (depending on your preference; I prefer thicker slices . Cut shallot into 1/4 inch slices. Toss apples and shallots together in a medium-sized bowl.
I used a 1-quart mason jar for the pickling, but you can use any similarly sized jar or sealable non-reactive container. Add the slices to the jar, interspersing juniper berries and black peppercorn along the way. Place the rosemary sprig down the side of the jar once the apples, shallots, juniper berries, and black peppercorns are in place.
Heat honey, balsamic vinegar, water and salt in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and stir until the honey is completely dissolved, about one minute. Pour over apples and shallots in the quart jar, seal with the lid and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, place in the refrigerator and enjoy within a week.