Pickled onion time

At last pickling onions are available again.  My daughter managed to find a fruit and vegetable market that supplied her with a 20 kilo bag.  She has since made them into a variety of flavours, using different spices and vinegars.  In winter there really is nothing like a bowl of hot soup and a plate of pickled onions and a really good (Tasmanian) cheese.  The recipe to follow is the basic one I always use – Stephanie used a commercial picklng vinegar with one batch, dark malt vinegar with another and white vinegar with her own spices added to another.

If you don’t fancy peeling the onions because they make you cry, you could try (husband) Robert’s method.  He peels them for me each year, setting hiimself up outside on a benchtop, with the wind blowing the offending fumes away on the breeze.

Even if you only make a couple of kilos, it is well worth the effort – your household can have its own signature version of pickled onions all year round (they keep very well).  Use the following recipe as a basis only – vary the spices according to taste or omit them altogether, add some chilli flakes if you like – add more or less sugar and so on.

Brining solution

4 cups water

100g cooking salt

1 to 1.5kg pickling onions

Spiced vinegar

4 cups white or cider vinegar (you can use dark malt if you want)

15g allspice berries, optional

15g coriander seeds, optional

15g cardamom pods, optional

1-2 sticks cinnamon, optional

A few cloves

4 bay leaves

¾ cup sugar (or to taste)

 To make brining solution, combine water and salt in a large stainless steel saucepan and heat until salt is dissolved.  Allow to cool, add onions and weigh down with a plate or similar and set aside for 24 hours. 

 Next day make the spiced vinegar.  Combine vinegar, spices and sugar in a saucepan and bring to just below boiling point.  Cover saucepan with a lid, then leave to infuse for at least 3 hours.  Strain through a colander or sieve lined with a double thickness of muslin (or tea towel). Set aside to cool.

 Drain onions from brining solution, rinse well and pat dry with a paper towel.  Pack onions into sterilised jars to within 2.5cm of top of each jar.

 Pour cooled spiced vinegar over onions, ensuring that onions are completely covered. If onions float to the surface, place a crumpled piece of baking paper in top of each jar and press into the vinegar, making sure there are no air pockets underneath.  After a few days this can be removed as onions will have absorbed the vinegar and should stay submerged. 

 Seal immediately and store in a cool, dry and dark place for 1 month before using.

6 thoughts on “Pickled onion time

  1. Claire says:

    Hi Sally, I have recently made up a batch of pickled onions using the recipe from your book my partner reckons they are ‘just like Blue Banner onions’! I’ve been reading old posts from your blog and will be spreading the word as much as I can about it because it is such a great resource and especially relevant for us Tasmanians who may be mainly reading American ‘canning blogs’.


  2. John Travlos says:

    I am just wondering if you know how to make the onions very white looking. I have seen some at local shows and royal shows and the onions are extremely white looking. How is this done??? My onions always turn out to be a yellowish or brownish colour.. Or are the competitors at the shows cheating in some way??? Plz help.


    • Sally Wise says:

      I would imagine it could be something as simple as using white vinegar. I know that some old, old recipes suggest soaking the onions in milk before they are pickled. This would help to maintain their appearance. I have heard that one commercial brand does the same thing. By way of spices, if indeed any at all are used which is doubtful, they would have to be scant and whole spices used very sparingly, and then strained out through a triple thickness of muslin.

      My guess is that they are just using plain white vinegar, maybe with a little white sugar added to counteract the sourness and acidity.



  3. wayne shrubb says:

    Hi I want to make about 10 kilos of onions altogether, do i just multiply the recipe by 10? it seems a lot of sugar and salt.
    Many Thanks
    Wayne Shrubb


    • Sally Wise says:

      Hi Wayne – yes, you need to multiply it out by 10. However, reduce the sugar if you want – it is optional. The salting process in the quantity specified however is necessary for effective preservation. However, it is drained off and very little if any remains in the finished product. THe vinegar is the preserver once the recipe gets to that stage.



  4. Sue Bee says:

    Sally , the best pickling onion is one that is now hard to find called a Silverskin. It is very white and a perfect size, when pickled in light vinegar stays lovely and white and crisp.


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