Anita’s spiced pickled onions

Spiced Pickled Onions – 1st Draft
Anita’s original notes with some amendments. [Posted first on 6 Jars]

Some reflection on tasting the pickled onions given the initial recipe (pouring in the heated vinegar): the onions taste pretty damn good, not at all soggy like I feared that they would be. Perhaps I got lucky? Will have to replicate the recipe when the stores of onions run low, or a stash of small onions become available. (April 9, 2013)

It’s done! Onions pickled for the upcoming Makeshift jar-swap at Carriageworks/Eveleigh Growers Market this Saturday morning.
Am not sure about swapping these with the general public. Probably better to test on some suspecting family & friends first.

It was great getting the produce from the market, particularly the closing-time bargains.

Spiced Pickled Onion Recipe – makes 6 small jars, depending on how you cram the onions in.

This recipe has been inspired by a few others. As most recommend waiting about a month before eating, I’ll have to amend the recipe to taste as needed in the future.

1/2 – 1 cup sea salt
Approx. 2.5L water
1.5kg small onions
4tbsp. Brown sugar
4 cups vinegar ( I split it: 2 malt v; 1 apple cider v; 1 verjuice)
De-seeded chili thinly sliced, whole cloves, whole peppercorns, ground allspice, and crushed bay leaves to taste.

Peel onions (skins can be saved for dye-stuffs, or mulch in the garden); place onions in a large bowl/pot; mix half of the salt in with enough water to cover onions fully, and weigh the onions under the brine (I use a side-dish). Change the brine after a day, and let sit for another day or two in a cool shady place.

Sterilise your jars and lids by boiling them in water for 20mins. Whilst this is going on, you can prep the spices, and bring the vinegar/verjuice and sugar mix to almost a simmer in a non reactive pan. You can also wash the onions if you prefer them less salty.

Once the jars are sterilised, carefully take them out of the water-bath ( I find that a wooden spatula and a thick kitchen towel work well), so that as little water remains in the jars and lids as possible.

Throw some of the spices in, and start wedging the onions around the jar. Though more experienced picklers may look down on this suggestion, I suggest cutting down more onions to cram them in. Alternate between layering the onions and filling gaps with more spices to taste. Don’t fill the jar higher than the bottom of the rim-thread: remember that you’ll have to fill the jar with juice to cover the onions (& chillies) so that they’re not exposed to air, which can lead to spoiling or exploding jars if you’re unlucky. On top of this, the juice shouldn’t be up to the rim of the jar either.

When you can’t fill the jar anymore, carefully pour (or ladle) the *steaming hotcooled vinegar concoction into the jars. Make sure that it is a millimetre or two above the onions, but ideally at least .5cm below the rim of the jar. Use a clean towel that you’ve dipped in the boiling jar water to run around the rim (thread) of the jar, you don’t want the vacuum seal of the jar compromised by any contamination. Use a dry towel to hold the jar and screw the lid on tightly.

The jars that I’m using are pretty standard produce jars, on which the lids pop-up when the vacuum seal is broken. I find that after the produce has cooled in the jar, a vacuum seal has formed. If after cooling you can still compress the lid, the jar isn’t sealed, and won’t keep. You can try unsealing the jar, checking for an obstruction, then resealing and boiling the jar for 20mins. If you just can’t get the jar to seal, I suggest that you put the jar in the fridge, and make delicious balsamy caramelised onions until the jar is used up or the produce starts to get a bit funky.

To caramelise the onions. Chop the onions into slivers. Throw into a pot with some of the vinegar concoction and a slice or two of butter to take the edge off it, & simmer on medium heat until it reduces right down. Lovely to eat with poached eggs & crusty bread.

The picked onions should last in a cool & shady place for around 6 months. Though it could last for more, you need to use your nose and common sense to test it out.

After the jars cooled I wasn’t convinced that an airtight seal had formed, so I boiled the jars (waterline well and truly above the lids) for 20min just to be doubly sure.


*modification after finding some other onion pickling instructions that demand cooled vinegar so that the onions remain crisp! Damn! and
The latter, by Sally Wise has lots of interesting info & variation suggestions.


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