How to make the Perfect Pickled Onions in time for Christmas
Pickled onions are so simple to make at home and taste way better than those you can buy in the supermarkets. Scroll down for my full proof recipe.
A Christmas classic
Pickles are always present on our Christmas buffet table. Just the sight of a jar of picked onions or pickled gherkins gets me thinking of leftover cold turkey and half drunk glasses of sherry sat next to a festive roaring fire.
I’m sure we’re not the only family across the UK that has that giant jar of sweet pickled onions waiting to be cracked open on Christmas afternoon, or perhaps Boxing Day when aunts, uncles, grandparents and other more obscure family members all show up for a big Christmas buffet.
With so many store cupboard staples it’s easy to resign yourself to picking up the same old jar off the supermarket shelf but I vouched this year that I wouldn’t fall into this trap. Pickles are so easy to make at home that you’d be crazy not to give it a go.
For those of you not so familiar with this particular type of pickle, the onions are both sharp and sweet making your taste buds really wake up and come alive. It is also this combination of sweet and sour that also makes them perfect for cutting through the rich turkey meat and creamy Christmas cheese that is found at Christmas parties.
So I’ve convinced you they’re good and that you should make your own, but how do you actually do it?
Well, pickled onions are incredibly easy to make. With just 4 ingredients, roughly 25mins prep time and a salty bath for the shallots overnight you end up with a classic Christmas food without breaking out into a sweat. You really can’t get this wrong.
The key to perfect pickled onions
The first ingredient you will need is the little onions. You can either use baby onions or shallots. Shallots give a sweeter taste but either are fine. My family recipe also includes honey (that will be ingredient number 4…) so if you can only get hold of baby onions they will still taste delicious!
You can try and find the nicest, roundest most perfect looking pickled onions but you know what…you won’t be able to fit as many in a jar! This is another reason why I love shallots, you can cram even more in! Greedy, I know…
The second most important ingredient in all of this is the vinegar. Pickling is the process of preserving food using vinegar and that’s exactly what we are doing here.
To get the best flavour in your pickled onions use a malt vinegar, rather than the clear stuff.
You may wonder why the onions are left in a brine overnight if we are going to pickle them with vinegar anyway? Well , there is a good reason I promise. By soaking the onions in salty water you make sure that the onions retain that crisp bite. To make sure they stay this way it’s also important to let your vinegar and honey cool down before pouring into the jars.
Sugar and spice
You can use any combination of pickling spices you like. Most supermarkets sell their own blend but I always include bay leaves, peppercorns, coriander seeds and mushroom seeds!
Last but not least you’re going to need some honey. This is purely to sweeten the finished product. If you use baby onions rather than shallots I would add a little extra honey but it really is up to you! If you follow a plant based diet you can swap the honey for another liquid sugar of your choosing.
Now that I’ve explained the ingredients you need. Here’s my family recipe.
- 500 grams small shallots
- 500 millilitres malt vinegar
- 50 grams salt
- 1 tbsp honey or vegan alternative such as agave
- 4 tbsp pickling spice
Begin by peeling the shallots and trimming the roots, discarding any inedible skins and tough pieces.
Place in a large bowl and pour over the water and salt. Give the mix a good stir helping the water to dissolve and leave the shallots in the brine overnight.
After leaving the shallots to soak, drain them and rinse them well before patting dry with a clean tea towel or kitchen roll.
Sterilize your jar by washing in warm soapy water and placing in an oven on a low heat until completely dry.
Whilst sterilizing the jars warm the vinegar in a pan along with the honey until the honey has dissolved. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before moving on to the next step.
Once the jars have dried immediately pack the shallots into the jars and cover with the cool vinegar mixture.
Seal the jars and store in your cupboard ready for Christmas.
These will be ready in just a couple of weeks but can last for many more unopened.
Once you have opened the jar they are best served in the fridge and eaten within a couple of weeks.
So there you have it – with this simple pickled onion recipe you will never want to buy shop bought again. Why not make multiple jars and share them with all your friends and family?
Do you make pickled onions at home? Perhaps you’ve experimented with flavoured vinegars and herbs. I’d love to hear in the comments.