If you grow onions, particularly small to medium ones, one of the best way to preserve them is to pickle them. In fact, you can preserve any home produce this way. My friend, Chris Wright, tells me that on her recent trip to Nepal, she discovered that the people there preserve just about everything by pickling, even gooseberries! For goodness sake, why grow loads of produce and allow it to go to waste!!! I like to freeze, dry or preserve enough home grown food to make sure I have plenty for those bare months in the garden, December, January and February. Potatoes, I leave in the ground and empty the containers one by one as necessary over the Winter months.
PICKLING: Just about all you need some vinegar, white is the best for me, a sterile jar, some spices and sugar.
Carefully peel the onions, you want them to look good and also to not fall apart in the jar. Some people prefer to briefly boil the onions before peeling to soften the skin and make removing easier. Some also prefer to peel with the onions submerged under water to avoid shedding too many tears!
Soak the onions for 24 hours in brine. To make brine, dissolve about 100g of salt to one litre of water and allow it to cool. If you want your onions to be soft, not crisp like me, don’t cool the brine. Completely cover the onions in a container. I use a pan and weight the onions under the brine with a plate.
After 24 hours, dry the onions on some kitchen paper, or similar absorbent thing.
Put the onions in a container to be sealed. Throw in whatever spices you have, or fancy. I consider peppercorns (a variety of colours is nice) to be essential, personally. A few of your home grown chillies and peppers. I use a few cloves of garlic, mustard seeds (black & white), cumin seeds. This batch has a bit of dill, caraway, salt, onion seeds, fennel, maybe even some cumin seeds too: these may not be to everyone’s pallette and I will most likely put different stuff in next time. Anything goes: it is all a question of taste, variety and experimentation…
To avoid sour onions put in a couple of table spoons of sugar, also, to sweeten (some use brown sugar, or honey)!
Pour the vinegar into the filled container until the contents are covered by about one centimetre.
Store for ages!!! (At least a month, but preferably much longer). Shake the jar a little every now and then to distribute the chosen pickling spices…
There’s no need to stop at onions, either. Have a look at these…
The cauli & broccoli, I prepare much the same way as the onions. Stick ’em in brine overnight, to draw out the moisture from the vegetables before jarring up in vinegar. The mushrooms, I do a little differently. First, I gently warm the clean mushrooms in salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice. When it is just beginning to hiss, I just cover the mushrooms with the vinegar, turn up the heat very slightly and cook gently until I see that they have shrunk a bit, visibly. You can add spices to the mix as you add the vinegar: perhaps, chilli flakes, pepper, some sugar etc. or you can just add to the jar with the mushrooms, as usual. Put the mushrooms in the jar, add whatever you wish. I have some peppers, garlic cloves, chillies, a bit of onion… cover with the hot vinegar, tightly screw on the lid and cold store for at least a month – two is better if you can wait!