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Five Simple Methods for Pickling Onions
Five Simple Methods for Pickling Onions

The practice of pickling vegetables goes back at least 4000 years — ancient people in India used this method to preserve food past the harvesting season. As it's thought to be the oldest cultivated vegetable, and a near-universal ingredient in cooking, many cultures have their own varieties of pickled onions.

These sweet, sour, delicately spiced morsels pair perfectly with a wide range of meat and vegan dishes. The pickling liquid and spices can be tweaked depending on your tastes, and you can use virtually any kind of onion or shallot.

01

Mexican pickled onions

Mexican pickled onions Robert Patrick Briggs / Getty Images

This is a quick recipe that can be eaten within half an hour of making. Lime juice is the key pickling ingredient, and it gives this treat a distinctive zest. Ingredients:

  • One large purple onion, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon of a pale vinegar of your choice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • one teaspoon of salt
  • half a teaspoon of pepper
  • Mexican oregano
  • Chili flakes or jalapeno peppers

Put the sliced onion in a glass jar and pour the lime juice, vinegar, salt, and spices on top. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least half an hour, but preferably around two hours. Use within a few days.

02

Southern-style pickled onions

Fresh Vidalia Onions dollyllama / Getty Images

For this comforting variation originating in Georgia, choose the state’s famously sweet and mellow Vidalia onions, which are usually available between April and August.

Ingredients:

  • Two finely sliced Vidalia onions
  • 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar.
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds,
  • A sprinkling of chili flakes or sliced jalapenos.

Read on for the steps!

03

How to make southern-style pickled onions

Sliced Vidalia Onions razmarinka / Getty Images

Heat the vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and spices in a pan until they reach the boiling point. Turn off the heat and mix the sliced onions into the liquid. Stir well. Spoon the mixture into clean glass jars and cover. Refrigerate once cool. They will be ready to use within a few hours, or you can store them in the fridge for up to a month.

04

English pickled onions

small pickled onions Andrii Pohranychnyi / Getty Images

Traditionally eaten with fish and chips or cheese and cold meats during the festive season, these pungent little onions are well worth the wait for winter.

Ingredients:

  • 10 dried allspice berries
  • 20 peppercorns
  • 4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 4 Bay leaves
  • 2 lb small silverskin onions or shallots
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 6 oz honey
  • 8 oz malt vinegar

The how-to is up next.

05

The English pickling method

Pickled onions served with cheese BarrySeward / Getty Images
  1. Blanch the onions in boiling water for ten minutes. Drain off the water, slice off both ends of the onions and remove the skin.
  2. Heat the spices, honey, and vinegar in the saucepan until they reach boiling point.
  3. Leave the spices in the pickling liquid, as they add visual interest and flavor.

Up next, filling and storing!

06

Filling and storing the jars

Jars of pickled onions lcswart / Getty Images

Turn the heat off and mix the onions into the liquid. Stir well. Pour the mixture into heatproof jars, taking care to cover the onions completely with the pickling liquid while it’s still hot. Seal the jars and leave to cool before storing in a cool dark place for at least a month prior to eating. Once you have opened a jar, keep it in the refrigerator.

07

Indian pickled onion salad

red onion gaffera / Getty Images

This variation is usually served as an accompaniment to curries and other rich dishes, where the acidity of the lemon juice provides a welcome contrast. You can substitute malt vinegar if you prefer.

Ingredients:

  • One large red onion, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder, or fresh chilies
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt.

Next, we'll put it all together!

08

Making the Indian pickled onion salad

pickled onion salad with chilis knape / Getty Images

To assemble the salad, place the sliced red onions in a large bowl, and pour over the lemon juice, water, salt, and spices. Stir the ingredients together well. This garnish is normally eaten on the same day, but it will keep for around 48 hours in the fridge.

09

Cipollini pickled onions

Fresh Cipollini onions bhofack2 / Getty Images

This recipe is inspired by the small, sweet onions of southern Italy. Naturally, it makes use of olive oil in the preserving method.

Ingredients:

  • ½ lb of cipollini or other mild-flavoured pearl onions
  • 1 ½ cups balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 medium red chili pepper
  • A handful of fresh basil
  • Plenty of good-quality olive oil
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf

Read on for the instructions.

10

How to make Cipollini pickled onions

Cipollini Onions giodilo / Getty Images

Blanch the onions in boiling water briefly, then drain them and leave to cool. Remove the skins. Bring the vinegar, sugar, and spices to boil. Add the onions and simmer them for ten minutes, then drain and leave them to dry. Pack the onions into sterilized jars and cover them completely with olive oil to help preserve them. They should keep for a couple of months in a cool, dry cupboard.

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