Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Michael's Grandmother's Pickled Onions

A number of years back my friend Michael asked me to help him make his grandmother's onion pickle recipe, which he remembered fondly and for which he had her written recipe. He had not done much canning and her instructions were rather cryptic so it took some work for us to figure them out. We did though, and I was very impressed with the results. The long brine soak makes them mild and slightly salty, and the final packing liquid has just enough sugar to balance them out. The spices give a bit of bite. Michael's grandmother also added a littel mace but we decided we didn't want any, and have never regretted it.

It's been a few years since I made these, and as I made them I was reminded why. These are very good pickles but I have to say they are a lot of work. Never mind peeling all the onions; that's par for the course. It's the brining and soaking that's a pain. Also all that salt! Most of it going down the drain admittedly, but that just makes me feel like these are my very own little ecological disaster. However they are good enough that I think they should be made every few years.

The onions to use for this are not the little silverskin onions usually thought of as pickling onions, but regular cooking onions - just the smallest regular cooking onions you can find. The best way to get them is in a  10 pound bag. For some reason, the 10 pound bags of onions usually seem to have smaller onions than when you buy them in a 2 or 5 pound bag. Look for the bag with the smallest but most evenly sized onions you can find. I got a 10 pound bag of onions and removed about a pound of them as too big to pickle, leaving me with about 9 pounds.

7 x 500 ml or 3 1/2 litres
4 DAYS brining - allow 1 hour to peel onions,
and 2 hours for the final canning

4 to 4.5 kilograms ( 9 to 10 pounds) small cooking onions
3 cups, yes I said CUPS, pickling salt

1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes PER JAR
1/4 teaspoon white peppercorns PER JAR
4 cups water
4 cups white vinegar
1 cup sugar

Peel the onions. Place them in a large ceramic or glass crock. Put 2 quarts (8 cups) water in a pot with 1 cup of the salt and bring to a boil. Pour the boiling brine over the onions. Cover and set in a cool place for 2 days.

Drain the onions. Make another boiling brine of 2 quarts water and 1 cup salt, and pour it over the drained onions. Cover and let sit for another 2 days.

Put your canning jars into a canner, and cover them with water to an inch above the tops of them. Bring to a boil and boil them for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain the onions. Trim off any darkened or bruised spots and put them in a canning kettle with 2 quarts of water and the final cup of salt. Bring to a boil and boil 3 minutes. They should come to a boil just as the jars are finishing. Remove the jars from the canner, setting them on a heatproof surface. Drain the onions throughly and pack them into the hot jars, using a sterilized funnel and a slotted spoon. Add the chile flakes and peppercorns to each jar.

Have the 4 cups water, vinegar, and sugar standing by in a pot. Put it on to heat when the onions are drained, and once it boils and the onions are packed in the jars, ladle it over the onions. Also have the lids in a pot, covered with water, and put them on to boil at the same time. Wipe the rims of the jars with a bit of paper towel dipped in boiling water, put the lids in place and seal them. Return them to the canner and boil for 10 minutes for 500 ml jars or 15 minutes for 1 litre jars. Remove, let cool, and test for seals. Label and store in a cool dark spot for at least one month before opening. Once opened, they should be refrigerated.

Last year at this time I made Stuffing or Dressing Bread.


CallieK said...

Oh those look amazing! Sounds like an excellent project for January.

Chris Snith said...

those would be great unfortunately baby onions are hard to find in ontario since no one produces them any more and the ones you find sometimes in the stores are from the states and very expensive now.. but i will keep this recipe in mind if i ever do find some at a decent price.

Ferdzy said...

Hey Chris, thanks for commenting. I have seen baby onions for sale at farmers markets but it is true you likely will not see them in the grocery stores. However, I made these with regular cooking onions - just the smallest ones I could find.

Chris Snith said...

thats a good idea i will have to keep a look out for some small cooking onions to give this a try with. thanks.