21 February 2011

Crunchy pickled onions

I just love pickled onions. Those crunchy white morsels that go so well with a good sharp cheese, not the big squishy blobs that sit on the counter at the local fish'n'chip shop, but lovely, crunchy mouthfuls of tart delight.

We often have a ploughman's lunch a la Cheapskates on a Sunday, with fresh bread, sliced cheese, cold meat and pickled onions, all washed down with homemade ginger beer.  With this feast spread on the table we can sit and nibble and talk for hours.  And always it's the pickled onions that disappear first.

They are so easy to make, and with MOO month just a week away and as I was peeling onions this morning, I thought I'd share how I make them and perhaps inspire you to give them a try or if you already MOO pickled onions, share your recipe and instructions. 

My recipe is somewhat garbled, I copied it straight from my mother's recipe book.

"Peel onions, pack in jar. Add seasonings, 1 teaspoon whole allspice, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, half teaspoon salt, half teaspoon castor sugar. Cover with brown malt vinegar. Keep 2 weeks in dark cupboard."

This is what I do:

Peel 2kg pickling onions. Pack whole onions into sterilized pasta sauce jars, about 500ml size. To each jar add 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice, 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns and half a teaspoon sugar.  Pour cold malt vinegar into jar to cover onions. Seal jars and store in cool, dark cupboard for at least two weeks before using. Once open keep them in the fridge.

These onions have a lovely spicy flavour and stay crisp and crunchy. They go very well with cheese and crackers and are a nice addition to a green salad, with a little of the flavoured vinegar as the dressing. They just give it a little extra crunch without being overpowering.

Pickling onions can be bought at any good greengrocer or from the market. Generally from the market they are in either a 10kg or 20kg bag. That's a lot of onions so you may want to pickle some and then slice and/or dice the rest and freeze them. Onions actually freeze really well.

If you are buying them from the supermarket, look for bags of small onions.

Once the onions are all gone you can use the vinegar as the base for salad dressings and marinades or you can strain it and re-use it for the next batch.

To re-use the vinegar strain it through a cheesecloth to separate the spices. Top the vinegar up with fresh malt vinegar and fresh spices when you add it to the jars.

By the time the onions were finished and the kitchen all tidied up again my hands were freezing. It's hard to believe that it's February, although it is Melbourne! The wind was blowing strong today, and we had lots of rain showers, making everything feel damp and cold.

Poor Thomas walked to the bus stop in the rain, refusing my offer to drive him up to the corner. He'd only just left and down it came! I spent the afternoon wondering and worrying about him being wet and cold. It was wasted wondering and worry, he came home dry as a bone and none the worse for his walk in the rain.

I wonder when a mother stops worrying about her children?

**** I'll post a photo or two in the next couple of days, the battery in my camera was flat this morning and I wasn't game enough to swap it myself - I'm still learning how to use this new wizz bang super dooper camera!****

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