My new way of pickling onions – this is experimental – 1/4/13

The date, April Fools Day, doesn’t indicate that this is a joke. I have only included it because I intend to update this post in a month and again a couple of months after that, simply to report on whether the experiment was a success.

I have had such a success with my Pickled sliced gherkins that I decided to apply a similar method to the pickled onion concept. The previous batch of pickled onions looked great for a while but didn’t keep so were thrown away and the recipe not repeated – and has been deleted.

The basic concept of the gherkins was that they were sliced and brined. The only recpes that I could find with sliced cucumbers were dill pickles and to me they taste awful so I modified a pickled gherkin recipe (followed the basic concept but added my own spices etc and adjusted brining time). I have now made the pickled cucumbers many times, each time a bigger batch, because they get eaten so quickly.

The reason they work is that the thin slices can be added to biscuits, cheese platters and sandwiches very easily and they taste fabulous.

This recipe takes a few days and is a commitment that has to be planned for but is so worth the effort.

This is what I have done:

  • About 6 kg brown onions – with this recipe they don’t need to be small pickling onions, so there are fewer onions to peel and there is less wastage – get a big pot of water boiling and dip the onions in about 6 at a time for around 1 minute and remove to drain and cool.When they are cool peel and slice thinly, through the food processor is good, and put into a very large jar or big bowl that can be covered and weighted. I used a very large jar.
    In previous recipes that included brining I used a large steel dish and weighted the mix with a dinner plate. The large jar was easier because it only needed a piece of plastic wrap and a smaller weight. The jar could easily be covered to keep insects out,
  • Make a brine solution with 3 tbs salt to 1 litre boiling water, boil for a while then add to onions. Make up more brine and repeat if there is not enough to cover by at least 2cm, pushing a chopstick or something thicker into the mix to work out all of the air bubbles.
  • Submerge the onions – I used plastic wrap, weighted with a lid and water inside a zip lock bag. Whatever you can come up with that keeps the onions below the surface of the brine is fine.
  • Cover and leave on a few layers of newspaper to absorb any spills
  • Keep tasting – waiting for it to soften a bit – don’t worry if it starts fermenting – I am allowing it to ferment a bit before adding the vinegar. I left the mix for 5 days.
    At this point I decided to go with the pickling vinegar method, wimping out on fermenting, which I may try again another day but probably with cabbage as a first attempt.


    Day 1

  • Make a spiced vinegar (see below) and leave to steep and cool for a few hours.
  • Drain the onions into a seive. When well drained put the onions back into the jars, that have been rinsed with boiling water and cover with the strained vinegar mix. Remove the air as described earlier.
    Wrap the spices into a piece of muslin and poke it into the top of the jar. Place plastic wrap in the top of the jars to keep onions submerged if necessary.

    Day 2

  • After about 24 hours drain the vinegar from the onions into a saucepan. I invert the jar over a seive.  Put the spice bag into the vinegar mix and bring it back to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes, taste the mix, it usually needs at least another 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar added.
  • Pour the mix back into the onions and add the bag and submerge the onions as before.

    Days 3 & 4 and to finish

  • Keep tasting the onions, looking for them to not taste so raw and to start having a pickled flavour. The flavours will develop over the resting period but here I am looking for the flavour to be right.
  • Repeat the above, draining and boiling and adding sugar and/or vinegar another 2 times at least.
  • When the flavour is right remove the jar to the fridge and try not to eat too many for a few weeks – they taste better and better as the days pass and it is hard not to eat them. Ours rarely last the resting period, I decant into small jars to serve from during this time.

Spiced Vinegar

  • 1 litre of good quality white vinegar
  • 1 tbs fennel seeds
  • 1 tbs coriander seeds
  • 1 tbs cardamom seeds
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 6 cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 to 1 cup sugar (Taste the vinegar and adjust)

Making the pickling vinegar

Heat the vinegar and spices to just below boiling point.
Cover and leave to infuse and cool for at least three hours.

Strain (I use triangular bandages for straining – I have heaps of them from years of attending first aid courses) into a jug for pouring into the jars containing the drained onions.


Store in the fridge.
8/4/13 – they taste great, we have started eaten them with cheese on biscuits and on roast lamb sandwiches.



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