These are good old-fashioned, blow your head off, English pickled onions in malt vinegar.
When an English person talks about having a pickled onion, this is likely the pickled onion that is meant. Outside the UK, jars of these can cost a bomb, so if you have any ex-pat Brits on your Christmas list, a jar of these would be sure to please.
Brits who have tried these onions say the onions transport them right back to their grandmother’s pickled onions.
To be safe for shelf-storage, jars of these must be processed (yes, despite all the vinegar in them.) They really do stay crisp, even though they are properly canned. Which shouldn’t surprise anyone; the store-bought ones are properly canned, too, after all, in factories.
But at the end, there’s an alternative method for refrigerated storage only for those afraid of going the shelf-stable, canning route.
The recipe is easily doubled, tripled, etc. In fact, you’ll probably want to.
You can also make them sugar and salt-free. Normally British pickled onions can be mini salt bombs. But the sugar and salt-free ones are only 2 mg of sodium per onion, so you can indulge worry-free. And all the great robust taste that fans of these onions love is still there.
Note: (1) The initial water is just for brining and is discarded later (see directions). The actual pickling brine is pure vinegar; (2) have extra vinegar to hand, you may need it depending on how the onions fit into the jars.
Jar size choices: Half-litre (1 US pint / 500 ml / 16 oz )
Processing method: Either water-bath or steam canning
Yield: 2 x half-litre (US pint) jars
Headspace: 3 cm (1 inch)
Processing time: 10 minutes
Yield: 2 x half-litres (US pint) jars
Serving size: 1 onion
- 750 g very small onions, unpeeled (1½ lbs. Measurements before prep.)
- 1 litre water (4 cups / 32 oz)
- 4 tablespoons pickling salt OR (2 tablespoons salt sub plus ¾ teaspoon pickle crisp)
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- ¼ teaspoon whole allspice berries
- ¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes
- bay leaves
- Pickle Crisp (optional)
- 500 ml malt vinegar (2 cups / 16 oz)
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar OR ¼ teaspoon liquid stevia
- Peel the onions, wash, set aside.
- Put 1 litre (1 US quart) of water in a large bowl. Add the salt (or salt sub and pickle crisp), stir well or whisk to dissolve.
- Add the onions.
- Put a plate on them, and weigh it down, to hold the onions down into the water.
- Let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.
- Drain onions, discarding soaking liquid.
- Make a spice mixture from the peppercorns, allspice berries, and hot pepper flakes; set aside.
- Pack onions into jars that are half-litre (US pint) in size. You'll need 2 to 3 jars depending on size of onions and how they fit into the jars.
- In each jar put 1 bay leaf, and ¼ teaspoon Pickle Crisp (and ¼ teaspoon salt sub, if not using salt.)
- Divide the spice mixture between the jars.
- Put the vinegar into a large, microwave-safe jug. Add the sugar OR liquid stevia. Heat in microwave to boiling.
- Ladle in the jars to cover the onions.
- Leave 3 cm (1 inch) headspace.
- Debubble, adjust headspace.
- Wipe jar rims.
- Put lids on.
- Process in a water bath or steam canner.
- Process jars for 10 minutes; increase time as needed for your altitude.
- Best after at least a month of jar time.
How to water bath process.
How to steam can.
When water-bath canning or steam canning, you must adjust the processing time for your altitude.
For salt substitute, Herbamare Sodium-Free was used.
For stevia, Better Stevia liquid stevia was the stevia used.
More information about Sugar and Salt-Free Canning in general.
- Instead of very small onions, you can use shallots.
- 750 g / 1.5 lbs of very small onions is about 18 to 19 onions that are about 3 cm (1 inch) in size.
- Add the water to the bowl, and then the pickle crisp into the water, otherwise the pickle crisp can cement itself to the bowl if the water goes in after it.
- You might need a third jar, depending on size and shape of onions and how they fit into jars.
- Have extra vinegar ready to heat up in case you go to 3 jars. If you do then stick a tablespoon of sugar (or 1/8th tsp stevia) in that extra vinegar as well, and remember to heat it (you can use the microwave to do so quickly.)
- You can use apple cider vinegar (5% or higher) instead or if you run out of malt or a mix of both.
- Half-litre (US pint) is the largest size jar that the recipe author tested for safe shelf-storage.
- Wide-mouth, straight-sided jars are the easiest for packing the onions into, if you have them. On the other hand, shouldered jars can help push and hold the onions down below the surface of the pickling solution.
Refrigerator pickled onions
- Prepare everything up to heating up the vinegar and sweetener.
- Let that cool.
- Pour over onions and spice mix in jar — you can use whatever size or type of lidded jar you want, as this is not going to be canned.
- Cover the jar, and refrigerate for at least a month before sampling.
- Should keep for at least six months in the refrigerator.
- Ziedrich, Linda. The Joy of Pickling. Boston, Massachusetts: The Harvard Common Press. 2009. pp 146 – 147.
- Introduced a salt-free soaking process using pickle crisp to crisp the onion;
- Simplified soaking process to one 24 hour period.
Per 1 onion / 40 g:
- 22 calories, 185 mg sodium
Sugar and salt-free version
Per 1 onion / 40 g:
- 19 calories, 2 mg sodium
- Weight Watchers PointsPlus®: 1 onion: 0 points; 2 to 3 onions: 1 point; 4 to 6: 3 points
* Nutrition info provided by http://caloriecount.about.com
* PointsPlus™ calculated by healthycanning.com. Not endorsed by Weight Watchers® International, Inc, which is the owner of the PointsPlus® registered trademark.
* Better Stevia ® is a registered trademark of the NOW Foods Company.
* Herbamare ® is a registered trademark of the A. Vogel Corporation.
Skipping the canning process
If you want to skip the canning process which makes the unopened jars shelf-stable, you can have these for refrigerated storage only.
Just prepare as directed, but don’t heat the vinegar, and skip the processing. As you won’t be processing you may use any size of jar and any type of lid you want.
Put a lid on the jar, and store in fridge.
Best after at least a month of time to pickle.
Taste tests between the canned and refrigerated-only pickled onions revealed no discernible difference in taste, or crunch.