Pickled Onions

It’s the time of year when pickled onions are readily available.  Pickling them is a simple process and they keep for months in a vinegar solution, always at the ready to serve on a cheese platter or ploughman’s lunch.  There are few things more warming in winter than a bowl of steaming hot soup and fresh crusty bread with cheese and pickled onions.

In the following recipe, you can use any type of vinegar – white, dark malt or cider.  Keep in mind that dark malt vinegar (which gives the strongest flavour) is not suitable for people who are gluten intolerant or have Coeliac disease.

Pickled Onions

Brining solution

200g cooking salt

2 litres water (3 cups boiling and 5 cups cold)

1.75 to 2kg pickling onions, peeled

Spiced vinegar

7½ cups vinegar

20g allspice berries

20g peppercorns

A few cloves

2 bay leaves

¾ cup sugar

To make brining solution, combine  salt and boiling water and stir until the salt is dissolved, then stir in the cold water.  Allow to cool, add onions and weigh down with a plate or similar and set aside for 24 hours.

Combine vinegar, spices and sugar in a saucepan and bring just to boiling point.  Cover saucepan with a lid, then leave to infuse for at least 3 hours to infuse.  Strain through a sieve. Set aside to cool completely.

Drain the brining solution from the onions, then rinse.  Pack onions into sterilised jars to within 2.5cm of top of each jar.  Each jar should contain 650g onions approximately.  It’s important to keep the proportions right so that there is enough vinegar in each jar to preserve the onions effectively.

Pour cooled spiced vinegar over onions, ensuring that onions are completely covered. Each jar should contain about 3 cups of the spiced vinegar.

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 2 months before using.

5 thoughts on “Pickled Onions

  1. Eve says:

    Lovely crisp onions, went down really well at Christmas. Can I reuse the vinegar for anything? it seems a shame to just throw it down the sink.


    • Sally Wise says:

      Glad the onions went down well. I’ve tried re-using the vinegar to make the next batch of pickled onions, but they went off so I’ve been hesitant to use it in anything since. That being said, it could perhaps be used to make chutney or relish, though there is still the risk that it will go off. The reason that there is a risk of spoilage is because the onions have quite a high water content, and this can dilute the vinegar.



  2. Julie says:

    Hi Sally,
    I would love to try and make the pickled onion, but am worried about the sterilization technique used.
    is the vinegar enough to keep the pickled onions in a sterile environment?
    by putting in crumpled baking paper in the jar and then taking it out after a couple of days, will this not cause the pickled onion to be in a non sterile environment, thus causing spoilage


  3. Margaret Brown says:

    Hi Sally I have your books and love them, thank you. I am about to attempt to make your pickled onions and just wondered what size jar you would recommend putting them in.


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