There are few food items more quintessentially British than the humble pickled onion. A Ploughman’s simply wouldn’t be a Ploughman’s without one and how on Earth would pregnant women satisfy their cravings? Everyone has their favourite brand in the shops but it’s hard to beat the home made variety – it’s so easy to do that anyone can learn how to make a pickled onion recipe.
Little button or pickling onions are usually in season in autumn, meaning they should be pickled to perfection by about now. You could use the same recipe with shallots if you prefer.
Basic pickled onion recipe
- 1kg pickling onions, peeled
- 4 teaspoons pickling spices – shop bought or make your own by combining half a teaspoon each of mustard seeds, black peppercorns, coriander seeds and dried chilli flakes
- 25g salt
- 1 litre malt vinegar
- 170g sugar
Place the peeled, dry onions in a large bowl, add the salt and stir to distribute evenly among the onions. Leave them overnight – no longer or the finished product can lose crispness – then rinse and pat dry with some kitchen towel.
Add the pickling spices, vinegar and sugar to a large, stainless steel saucepan. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved but do not allow to reach the boil.
Load the onions into clean, sterilised pickling jars – Wares of Knutsford has a wide range. Fill the jars to the top with the still warm pickling vinegar, making sure the spices are evenly distributed, the onions are all covered in liquid and that there are no air pockets.
Seal the jars and allow to cool. Store in a cool, dark place for at least a month, ideally two. Keep refrigerated once opened.
Eat the crisp, crunchy result at lunch with cold meats or a pork pie.
Quick cheat for pickled onion recipe
The most tedious and labour intensive part of how to pickle onions is peeling the onions beforehand. Save yourself a little time, trim the tops and tails then load the onions into a large, heat proof bowl. Cover with boiling water and allow to cool. You’ll find the skins then rub away much more easily. You can then drain them and give them a quick pat dry and the whole process is far less eye watering. Be careful not to let the onions soak in the water once cooled as they can become mushy.