I’ve become addicted to pickled red onions. They add a terrific tang to summer meals, and are so easy to make. I’ve spent time playing with recipes to find the one I like best. For awhile I used a super-quick one that didn’t require boiling the vinegar and spices together. It tasted fine to me, until I tried the traditional boiling method. I haven’t gone back. Boiling the brine mellows the pungency of the onions in a way that skipping boiling doesn’t. It’s worth the extra effort, not that there’s much effort to begin with!
Red onions are usually used, and do they look prettier in the jar, but you can substitute yellow or white onions, or even shallots.
The recipe calls for mustard and celery seeds and peppercorns, but you can add whatever spices and herbs you like to the brine. I don’t have whole celery seed so I use powdered, and add a smashed garlic clove.
And I use apple cider vinegar, although other recipes use white or rice vinegar. They’re pretty much interchangeable. Just don’t use balsamic vinegar.
As for the sweetener, traditional recipes call for white sugar, but I substitute maple syrup and prefer it.
Recipes vary as to how long these onions will last in the fridge. Some say two weeks, others up to a month. Mine rarely last more than a few days. If you go through a jar in less than a week, you can slice up more onions and add them to the existing brine. Don’t reuse the brine more than once, however.
The recipe makes enough to fill a one-quart mason jar.
In order for the brine to really permeate the onions, make sure to slice them as thinly as possible.
Pickled Red Onions
2 small to medium red onions, thinly sliced
1 ½ cups vinegar
1 ½ cups water
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
2 teaspoons celery seed
3 tablespoons kosher salt
¼ cup white sugar or maple syrup
Optional: garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, herbs, sliced jalapenos, or whatever spices or herbs you like.
Pack sliced red onions (and garlic clove and/or jalapenos, if using) tightly into a one-quart mason jar or container.
In a saucepan combine, salt, sugar, celery seeds, peppercorns, mustard seeds, water, and vinegar.
Bring pickling liquid to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once liquid boils for one minute, remove from heat, then pour over red onions.
Let the liquid cool for about five minutes. Seal with lid and refrigerate for at least two to three hours before serving.
Serve as a condiment with tacos, burgers, sandwiches, eggs, and anything from the grill, or add to salads.
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By Dan Heims, president of Terra Nova Nurseries
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries
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