Pickling onions is pretty easy and is a good place to start if you're just beginning to try your hand at pickling and home canning.

Here's a recipe I got from a Bernardin home preserving cook book, with a couple modifications of my own. This recipe assumes you know some of the basics of pickling.

  • 2 kg small or pearl onions
  • 4 tbsp, 2 tsp pickling salt (non-iodized) separated
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2tsp whole allspice
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 4 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 5 hot peppers (optional)
  • cheese cloth

Making the brine
First, peel the outer skin off the onions. If you can't peel them off without taking too much onion with them, blanch them and immediately plunge them in ice water. The skins will slip right off.

Trim the ends off the onions.

Mix the onions with 4 tbsp of pickling salt and let them stand overnight in a stainless steel pot.

The next day, rinse the salt off the onions and pat them dry with paper towel.

Mix the allspice, mustard seeds and peppercorns and tie into a pouch using the cheese cloth. Instead of this mixture you can also buy "Picking Spice", which is basically the same thing but includes some additional spices like cloves.

Combine the vinegar, sugar and 2 tsp of salt in a pot. Tie the spice pouch with some string and hang it in the pot. The point here is that you want the spice in the mixture, but you want to be able to remove them easily too.

Bring the brine to a boil and then add the onions to the mixture. Boil for 2 minutes and then reduce heat.

At this point you can follow the usual method for pickling anything with a boiling water home canning setup.

Fill each jar with onions and top up with the hot brine to within a 1/2 inch or 1 cm from the rim of the jar.

Tap the jar on the counter or use a non-metallic spatula to remove as many air bubbles from the jar as possible.

Wipe the rim of the jar to ensure a good seal between the glass and lid.

Seal the jars using a SNAP lid and process for 5 minutes.

Store in a cool, dark place. Store for at least 6 weeks but use within 1 year.

Almost forgot: You can add a bay leaf to each jar before sealing, if you're so inclined. You can also add a hot pepper to each jar if you like 'em a bit spicy.

Makes 5 500ml jars.

Pickled onions are a delicious and easy condiment that can add flavor to almost any dish. This recipe makes a sweet and salty brine, so to hit the trifecta of flavors, pair the onions with rich foods like cheeses and red meats. They're excellent on nachos, pork chops, sandwiches, and hummus. On salads the brine doubles as a pungent vinaigrette. Or you can just eat them straight from the jar by the forkful as I do (I have no self-respect).

Dead Easy Pickled Onions

1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup vinegar
4 tbs sugar
1 tbs salt

Slice onion and put slices in an old glass jar. The exact thickness isn't particularly important but thicker slices take longer to marinate and have a more concentrated flavor. My personal preference is to slice them as thinly as possible. Heat the vinegar in a small saucepan, add sugar and salt, then stir to dissolve. Pour the brine over onions and refrigerate overnight. That's it!

Many people suggest red wine vinegar but I find the difference in flavor is minimal and doesn't justify the cost and cabinet space of keeping so many different vinegars. The natural color of the onions will leach into the brine and replicate the pink color anyway.

A couple food safety notes: these onions aren't truly pickled and so aren't shelf-stable. Keep them in the fridge unless eating dodgy foods is how you get excitement in your life. I also tend to re-use the brine at least once. Just chop up another onion and add to the jar, topping off with a little more vinegar if necessary. Using the brine more than that tends to make it suspiciously cloudy and also reduces the flavor as the brine gets diluted by the water in the onions themselves. YMMV.


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