At any given time, there’s at least a half-dozen jars of pickles in my fridge. You’ll find pickles of all kinds: roasted beets, green tomatoes, nasturtium pods, radish pods. Notice a theme here? They’re either vegetables or the seeds of vegetables.
Up until a few weeks ago, I’d never made fruit pickles but I’d always been intrigued with them. The interplay of tangy and sweet seems well suited for the bitter-greens salads I like to make in fall and winter. Toss a medley of radicchio, endive, arugula, or dandelions together with pickled fruits (and perhaps a sweeter element, like roasted pears or apples) and you can temper the initial bite of bitter greens without losing their wonderful flavor.
As I found out, feijoas are the perfect pickling fruit. Their sweet and tart profile plays well with warm spices like cinnamon and clove, and they hold their shape and texture for weeks. I haven’t tried processing the pickles in a water bath canner, but as refrigerator pickles, they turn out tender with a pleasant chew.
Trying to work through my harvest, I made two different kinds of pickles with my feijoas, the first of which are these salty sweet pickled feijoas inspired by li hing mui, or salty dried plums. (The second pickle recipe will follow shortly!)
I grew up eating li hing mui like candy — its sharply sweet and sour flavor is as addictive as it is an acquired taste. Though it originated in China, the preserved plum is especially popular in Hawaii, where a flavoring made with ground li hing mui is called li hing powder. In the islands, it’s sprinkled on a wide assortment of foods from shave ice to fresh pineapples. It’s even the star of its own cocktail, the li hing mui margarita. You can take inspiration from any of the recipes found online for li hing mui margarita, and use the brine from your salty sweet pickled feijoas in place of the powder. Or for a refreshing non-alcoholic spritzer, mix the brine (which is essentially a fruit shrub) with sparkling water and garnish with a few shiso or mint leaves.
I pickle the feijoas with their skins on, as I find it enhances the sharp flavor. Use firm, unblemished fruits for this recipe, and feel free to slice them how you’d prefer to eat them. This is an excellent way to use up the smaller feijoas that aren’t convenient to peel.
Salty Sweet Pickled Feijoas
Makes 2 quarts
2 cups unseasoned rice vinegar
1 cup distilled white vinegar
2 cups packed brown sugar
1/4 cup pickling salt
2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks, broken in half
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 1/4 pounds feijoas, trimmed and quartered
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the rice vinegar, white vinegar, sugar, and salt and bring to a simmer. Stir until the grains are dissolved, then remove the brine from heat.
Divide the cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, and peppercorns evenly between two jars. Tightly pack the feijoas into the jars and ladle the hot brine over them, leaving about 1/2-inch headspace. Tap the jars to remove any trapped air bubbles and adjust the brine as needed.
Wipe the rims clean with a towel, seal with lids, and let cool to room temperature. Transfer the jars to the fridge and pickle for at least one week to develop the flavor. The pickles will keep in the fridge for about one month.