Introduction: This recipe post has become one of the most popular posts on the blog. I would like to clarify that the recipe in this post is adapted from a recipe that I found at Best Recipes called “Grandma’s Pickled Onions” by phocaena. I’ve decided to keep the original recipe name/title. It is not named after my grandma. For the original recipe, go to Best Recipes. Thank you phocaena! ?
Onions (Allium cepa) are a delicious and underrated vegetable. They’re readily available all year round, versatile and have many sweet and savoury culinary uses. Their health benefits are plentiful too, including being a good source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and folic acid. 1
One such popular use for onions is to preserve them into scrumptious pickled delights. Pickled onions, like many other pickles can be bought in the supermarket, and they taste damn good too, but homemade pickled onions always taste far superior. They’re great fun to make and well worth the wait until they’re ready to eat. Making pickled onions is a good test on your patience too!
Yes, pickled onions is another non traditional Lao recipe, but since having tasted homemade pickled onions at a fish and chip shop for the first time many moons ago, I was hooked, and have been meaning to find the perfect recipe to make my own for a while. Pickled onions are enjoyed in many countries and there are many variations to the recipe. In the UK, they are often eaten with fish and chips or as part of a “ploughman’s lunch”. 2
Pickled onions are packed full of flavours – sharp, sweet, astringent and juicy all in one, and it’s true, you either love them or loathe them. If you enjoy extreme flavours as much as I do, you’d understand that they’re delicious, and difficult to resist or forget.
Pickling onions (and other vegetables) is a smart idea, especially if you grow your own and have an abundant supply. With the following recipe, you can pickle small quantities into separate small jars, decorate and label them and give them away to family and friends as praiseworthy edible gifts.
Pickled onions are delicious eaten as they are (whole or sliced/quartered), as a snack, or they can be sliced and used to make divine sandwiches or hamburgers, or served on a plater with cold ham, cheese, crackers, and bread, etc., to share with family and friends.
I personally enjoy munching on them whole (in moderation of course) with an icy cold beer, watching summer tv, or out on the porch enjoying the summer arvo light change colour. Pickled onion recipes exists in many forms, and the one I would like to share with you is an adaptation of an old fashioned English recipe by phocaena – Grandma’s Pickled Onions at Best Recipes.
My process involved a few tweaks of the original recipe, with the addition of a few extra spices, etc. At first, I wanted to add other pickling vegetables into the jar (to complicate things), for example, gherkins, radishes and peppers, but I was unsuccessful in finding good options. Perhaps, it’s a lesson for me to keep things simple and follow instructions? Anyhow, next time, I think I will go ahead and do a “pickled onion combo” and include my favourite pickling veges into the mix.
By the way, be warned, and please enjoy the pickled onions in moderation. As I’ve stated, they’re extremely tasty and addictive, and can bless you with excess gas and burps. Pickled onions are best enjoyed with family and friends, if you know what I mean? Bon appetit! bigsmile
- 1 cup of sea salt
- 18 cups of water
- 2 kg of fresh unpeeled small pickling onions (or shallots)
- 8 Tbsp of brown sugar
- 2L of malt vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
- 2 tsp of black peppercorns
- 2 tsp of mixed or green peppercorns
- 1 tsp of whole allspice
- 6 bay leaves, crumbled
- 16 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 star anise
- 4 small chilies
- 5 cloves of garlic
- First, wash and prepare the onions. Peel and trim the roots of the onions. Be careful of your eyes.
- In a large mixing bowl, dissolve ½ a cup of sea salt in 9 cups of water.
- Add the onions into the bowl, mix them through the solution and weigh them down gently with a plate that fits inside the bowl. Ensure that the onions are fully submerged. Stand for 8 to 12 hours (or overnight).
- Overnight, drain the onions from the bowl.
- Make a new salt and water solution (the same as before) in the bowl and add the onions back into the bowl with the solution. Weigh the onions down gently again with a plate. Stand for 2 days.
- Two days later, drain and rinse the onions twice.
- In a saucepan, add the sugar and vinegar. Excluding the chilies and garlic, gently crush the spices and add them to the solution. Bring to the boil and then let the solution cool down.
- Half fill the preserving jar with the onions. Then, add half of the spices from the saucepan/solution into the jar, on top of the onions.
- Fill the jar to the top with the remaining onions, and add the chillies and garlic into the jar.
- Then, gently pour the cooled sweet vinegar solution and the remaining spices from the saucepan into the jar, ensuring that the onions are completely covered.
- Cover the jar with the lid and seal tightly!
- Store the jar away in a cool dark place or refrigerator for at least 1 month before eating the onions. They are very addictive, so enjoy them in moderation. They will keep for at least 6 months, if you can resist them for that long!
Optional extra pickling spices include a tsp of "mixed pickling spices" (cinnamon, mustard seeds, coriander, allspice, pepper, dill seeds, fennel, cloves, bay leaves, etc.).
Grandma’s pickled onions were a total success! Read the Grandma’s pickled onions – 1 month update and ready to nom post for the full story.
What you’ll need:
Did you know?
- In India, some sects do not eat onions because they’re believed to be an aphrodisiac. Various schools of Buddhism also advise against the consumption of onions and garlic because they’re believed to increase desire when eaten cooked and anger when eaten raw. 3
- To reduce eye irritation when cutting onions, first chill the onions for 30 minutes. Then, cut off the top and peel the outer layers leaving the root end intact. (The root end has the highest concentration of sulphuric compounds that irritate your eyes.) Cutting onions under running water or submerged in a basin of water also helps. Using a fan can also blow the irritating gas away from the eyes. 4
- Malt vinegar has a milder, sweeter and more complex flavour range than plain white vinegar, which is just acid and water. Besides being a versatile condiment in the British fried food world, malt vinegar makes a great “gastrique” (classic French sweet and sour reduction sauce) or simple salad dressing mixed with olive oil and fresh herbs. 5
If you like the grandma’s pickled onions recipe, be sure to check out the following recipes too. They taste amazing! Bon appetit!