There are few things more warming in winter than a bowl of steaming hot soup and fresh crusty bread with cheese and pickled onions.
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.
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.
200g cooking salt
2 litres water (3 cups boiling and 5 cups cold)
1.75 to 2kg pickling onions, peeled
7½ cups vinegar
20g allspice berries
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.