In England, pickled onions are enjoyed regularly. They are eaten with fish and chips, as part of a Ploughman's Lunch, with meat pies, and so many other savory dishes. There are hundreds of commercial varieties available, both across the pond and here in the States, but nothing beats a jar of homemade pickled onions.
Tiny pickling or button onions are readily available beginning in the autumn and well into the winter. Small white boiling onions, cippoline onions, shallots and even a few sliced yellow or white onions can be pickled separately or all together. You can also use a variety of vinegars, although it seems malt is the traditional choice for the Brits.
Overall this recipe is fairly quick and easy with results that are crunchy and delicious. Once you try pickled onions you will always want to keep one or two jars on the pantry shelf so you may readily add that little 'something special' to your lunches and brunches.
2 pounds pickling Onions, peeled (see note below)
4 teaspoon Basic Pickling Spices plus 4 dried red chili peppers
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
1 1/2 cups Malt Vinegar
1 cup Distilled White Vingar
1/2 cup Water
3/4 cup Sugar
TIP: Peeling pickling onions is time consuming. To speed up the process top and tail the onions, place them in a large bowl and pour enough boiling water over to cover. Leave until cool enough to handle and the skins will just slide off. Do not leave your onions in the water once they have cooled or they will start to go mushy.
Place the spices (except the red chili peppers) into a bit of cheesecloth and tie tightly, put the 4 chili peppers into a mini processor and pulse until they are in small bits.
In a large stainless steel pan mix vinegars, water and sugar. Heat to dissolve the sugar but do not boil. Let the pot simmer for a good 20 to 30 minutes to make sure sugar is dissolved.
Add the spice bag and chilli peppers, simmer for another 20 minutes.
Pack the peeled onions into clean, sterilized pint jars. Pour over the vinegar and spice liquid (after removing your pickling spice bag) filling the jar to 1/4 inch from rim. Check to be sure there are no air pockets. Seal the jars and process in a Hot Water Bath for 10 minutes, or allow to cool and store in refrigertator.
The onions will be ready to eat after about one month, but are more flavorful if rested for two before opening. Once you've popped the top it is best to keep them in a refrigerator or cool pantry.