Thursday 22 October 2015

Pickling Onions

I have to admit to not using a recipe when making these but there are loads of recipes around although it is amazing how much sugar goes into them - say what! Read all the way through this before starting just in case I have some instructions out of order.

A couple of things we have discovered over the years are these:

Prepare onions and spice vinegar (if needed) the day before:

Onions: -When preparing the onions the day before, there are two lines of thinking regarding peeling. 1) Pour boiling water over them, leave to go cold then peel. 2) Cover them with just warm water (so as not to chill your hands too much), peel under the water if able to, leaving them in until they are all peeled.

Once done, dig out the peeled ones and place them into a bowl, adding 1 tablespoon salt or (1/2oz) per layer. Toss them at the end then cover with a double layer of cling film overnight to try and stop your kitchen smelling too badly:)

In the morning, rinse well and dry with a paper towel. They must be dry before pickling. Pack the onions into your clean jar, packing as tightly as possible.  Top up to barely below the brim, with ready spiced vinegar*, poking out any air bubbles.

Vinegar: -  Most recipes call for ready spiced malt vinegar* but over the years I have used all kinds of vinegar, spiced and un-spiced! This year I managed to get hold of some gallon containers of non-brewed condiment for my laundry and used that. It is what is in most chip shop onions!

How much vinegar, well again recipes vary but roughly 1 pint of vinegar per 1lb of onions. Again, we do it by eye. Spices can be your own choice if you can only get hold of un-spiced vinegar.

This year, we added 1 tsp of whole black peppercorns, 1 fresh bay leaf and 1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds to each jar before filling them with onions. Some years we add a small dried chilli to each jar.

Sugar: - some recipes seem to use huge amounts, others none at all. We like to use just a small amount, between 1 tsp and 1 tablespoon per pint. As we add our spices seperately we warm our vinegar (on the same day as peeling the onions) and melt sugar into it. After 1 tsp of sugar per pint of vinegar has been added, taste and check. Not pleasant but needs to be done. Remember, you can always add more but taking it away is more difficult. Leave to go cold.

Again, once your onions are packed into their clean and steralized jars, top up with vinegar right to the top. Poke air bubbles out and put on the lids. If you haven't prepared enough vinegar, don't panic, just add extra even if it hasn't got spices in it.

If you have some vinegar left over, decant it into a bottle and store for topping up. We generally find that the vinegar doesn't drop as it soaks in but if you notice it does (and particularly if doing a lot of jars which will take longer to eat), check them periodically and top up where necessary.

Leave for 6 weeks then open and enjoy!


  1. I've never done pickled onions but your method doesn't sound overly complicated so I should be able to do that. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for posting the recipe, I'm going to give it a try. Are the onions shallots? They seem to be the only small onions we get here.

    1. Not sure but you need small onions usually no larger than 1" to 1 1/4" in diameter. Good luck!

  3. I was tempted to buy some pickling onions the other day, but decided against it as bought jars are so cheap. But thinking about it after reading your post, I bet most of them have lots of sugar in don't they. I will have to go and read some labels before deciding if it would be better to pickle them for myself.

    I'll definitely grow some small onions next year for pickling purposes :-)

    1. When we do decide to do some, you then have the chance to flavour them how you wish.


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