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Delicious, Homemade Pickled Onions For Christmas

Updated on January 15, 2015

Cheating To Make Delicious Homemade Pickled Onions

Homemade pickled onions, delicious, crunchy, sharp and spicy; sounds good but there are lots of recipes for making pickled onions available on the internet, which one to choose. All those spices, "kinda makes your head whirl", but I provide here an easy method which gives fabulous results.

Have you ever made really crunchy pickled onions, no matter which brand you can buy, I'll bet yours were better. And it is so easy to make them without all that time spent boiling vinegar to add the spices.

Unless otherwise noted, this & all images are my own photos, taken whilst preparing or enjoying my homemade pickled onions.

CHEAT! Buy ready spiced vinegar. Once you have done it you will not want to go back to adding your own spices - except a certain few to add a little zing and which do not need all that boiling.

I will be describing how easy it is to make your own onions and one or two secret ( ??) ingredients to make sure that people ask for more.

I took over the task of making my families christmas pickled onions, when my mother-in-law got too old to continue. She used to make a lot every year and pass jars out to various family members in about October time to mature for christmas. When I started doing it, I bolied up the vinegar to add the spices and the house reeked for days. Then one year I found a ready spiced vinegar. I have used it every year since. No one noticed the difference and they still expect their onions, 20 years on.

fresh shallots
fresh shallots

First Things First

Know Your Onions

I make pickled onions from both baby onions and shallots. "What is the difference?", I hear from the back. Well there are many varieties of shallot as there are of onions but two differences are of relevance here.

1. The shallot is a much sweeter bulb than the onion

2. Shallots tend to have double (or sometimes triple) bulbs in the outer skin. Slightly more difficult to skin since you usually need to separate the bulbs before processing, there are also long narrow types but I don't use these for pickling. No reason, just personal preference.

What ever you use treat in exactly the same way when pickling. I usually make pickled onions from both baby onions and shallots, in different jars of course. Nice to have a choice.

echallion shallots pickling pickled
echallion shallots pickling pickled

Echallion Shallots

Echallion shallots are the largest variety of shallots and are easily recognised by the elongated shape. They have a very sweet, intense flavour and are easy to prepare. An method is to place the shallot in boiling water for a fe seconds and cut off the top, when the bulb can be sqeezed to remove the fresh inner part, but this would not be amenable to pickling when crunchiness is parmount.

I have never used this variety for pickling although I guess there is no reason not to.

Do You Need Any Special Equipment To Make Pickled Onions?

The answer is a resounding no! You will however need a number of jars to store and mature the onions. I use old jam jars or chutney jars, etc, if you are not mindful to collect these throughout the year then it is possible to buy kilner jars which can be used and re-used many times.

Other equipment you will need is no more than may be found in virtually any kitchen. A large bowl for soaking the onions in brine is probably the only other item you may need to aquire if you do not have anything you can use already.

Prepare The Onions

Peel And Soak

Peel the onions, be prepared for a good cry! After 20 years of making these I still have not found a way of preventing the onion vapour from affecting my eyes. I wear glasses and put the onions directly into water but to no avail. I have heard that people actually peel them under water but this can be a nuisance and take a long time.

You can read of a simple way to prevent your eyes watering, on Squidoo. A couple of tips which may sound strange - I will let you know how I get on next time I make a batch.

A very good idea from a reader is to put the onions in the fridge before peeling, sounds llike this might work to me.

It is necessary to carry out the soaking, as the brine penetrates the onion, and by a process of osmosis (I believe) removes some of the water from the cells of the onion. This makes a far more firm and crunchy onion after the pickiling process.

When you have washed the peeled onions put them into a fairly large bowl and pour on sufficient brine to fully cover them. I add enough salt to the water so that there is some undissolved at the bottom of the container.

I then place a dish or small plate over the onions inside the bowl to keep them under the brine.

They then need to soak for about 24 hours.

The Next Step

Pickling The Onions

As I said I always use ready spiced pickling vinegar these days, but an alternative option is to add balsamic vinegar to the pickling vinegar ( half and half by volume).

The list of ingredients I use are :-

* enough onions ( baby onoins or shallots) to fill your pickling jars

* salt to prepare the brine solution

* Sufficient Pickling vinegar

* balsamic vinegar as required

* sugar ( to taste, about two heaped teaspoons per jar

* other spices and herbs as required

Clean and sterilise your pickling jars. Wash in hot soapy water, rinse and put into an oven at 100 degC. When Dry remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Drain the brine soaked onions and wash well under running water. Then leave in a cullender to drain excess water. Add the onions to your pickling jars, mix the sizes to get a good fill. Then add the sugar and fill the jar with your vinegar ( or the vinegar/basamic mixture) . Put on the top of the jar and shake to ensure that the sugar is dissolved.

Label as required, let stand for several weeks ( at least six) and the onions will be ready for your christmas table; delicious, crunchy and sweet.

chilli flakes
chilli flakes

Add Some Heat

If You Can Take It

As an additional option I always put some dried chilli flakes which are obtainable at most supermarkets, into a few of the jars. Some people like this but not everybody. So I can give them a choice. As with all my recipes I leave the amount to your own judgement. Experiment and find your own limit. I would suggest a half teaspoonful of the flakes as a starter. By the end of the maturation period, the onions will be delicious, crunchy and HOT.

pickled onions - ingredients
pickled onions - ingredients

So Where Does That Leave Us

The Choices Are Yours

You can choose baby onions or shallots, shallots are sweeter and generally not quite so hot. In the photograph here you can see onions on the left and shallots on the right. There are of course different kinds which may be shaped differently.

Select how sweet you want them, not too sweet though, and add the sugar.

Decided wether to add chilli flakes and how much, and wether you are brave enough.

And why not experiment for yourself? A contributer has written below to say that her father used honey. I guess this is instead of sugar as a sweetner, but I will be experimenting with my 2014 batch. I will simply leave out the sugar and add honey in what seems like an approproate amount to give a similar sweetness (will add more information soon). I am afraid that results will not be available just yet, but I look forward to adding them as soon as I have tasted the "honied onions".

All That Is Left Is To Enjoy The Onions.

But Don't Forget They need To Mature

I love eating them with cheese and crackers and a glass of whiskey, but as there may be minors watching, I had a cup of tea this time.

Just three days after christmas this year, I decided, with my wife , that a light meal would be very welcome. This consisted of a salad with home cooked ham, boiled in cider and then baked with a honey and mustard coating; homemade apple and plum chutney; and of course the homemade onions pickled in balsamic vinegar. A delightful meal washed down with a glass of a light traditional ale.

Happy pickling, folks.

christmas pickled onions
christmas pickled onions

Christmas Pickled Onion Supplies

Are you thinking of yours yet?

I am beginning to think about this years onionn as we go into august, this year I may be making a small batch to trial the use of honey. It sounds interesting. An idea from a comment below, but I will have to experiment a little with quantities. If I want the onions to be nicely matured before the great day arrives, maybe enough time to taste an early batch is needed.

As I believe I have mentioned, I tend to make far to much, some to give away, some for christmas itself and some to last the whole year. But for use at christmas, they do need time to mature. It is never to early to start thinking about pickling onions in my view.

I would love to hear from you if you pickle your own, maybe even share a secret ingredient.

Do you have any thoughts on pickling or pickled onions?

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    • Glenis Rix profile image

      GlenR 2 years ago from UK

      I make pickled onions every autumn, so they are ready to eat by Christmas. I like to add mustard seeds and halved chillies. Save the vinegar to have with chips!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 3 years ago from UK

      Sorry I have taken so long to reply to this question, as an ex-Squidoo lensmaster, it has taken me this time to realise I can see comments without looking at individual hubs.

      As to your question; no refrigeration is necessary at any stage of the process. The vinegar used in the pickling process prevents any deterioration of the onions/shallots.

    • profile image

      Ed 3 years ago

      Do you have to refrigerate the jars of onions during the aging process or after the aging process?

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 3 years ago from UK

      @judithelen: Hi, honey certainly seems to be worth consideration. Thanks for the idea, I will be trialling this in my batch this year.

      As for the amount, enough to sweeten to taste, I guess? Will add this thought to the recipe section. I will report the results early next year.

    • profile image

      judithelen 3 years ago

      My stepfather added honey to spiced vinegar and was really nice, unfortunately I can't remember how much... I've got onions and ready to go,Mmmm maybe touch n go guessing lol...

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 3 years ago from UK

      @ccrb: Well if you give them a good soak in brine (enough salt to leave some on the bottom of the container) they will last until christmas. I made my last lot for christmas 2013 in October (2013), they are still crunchy now in July 2014.

      I always make far too many and they see me right through the year.

      The brine removes water from the bulb and this keeps the onion/shallot crunchy.

    • profile image

      ccrb 3 years ago

      I've just harvested my first crop of shallots from my allotment and want to make pickled onions for Christmas do I need to ain't till October to make them and if I do it too early will they go soggy?

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 3 years ago from Alabama USA

      I love sweet onions, never made pickled onions. Will have to give them a try.

    • profile image

      marfreds55 3 years ago

      peal them on a chopping board on the cook top with the extractor fan going, this does the trick for me,

    • profile image

      madgedenzil 4 years ago

      hi when peeling onions i wear goggles no tears

    • profile image

      robert-balcombe-3 4 years ago

      I have been pickling onion for many years and never get watery

      open window in kitchen, sit at table with onions, put fan behind you,(don't forget to turn on) start peeling.

      simples.........please send money!


    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 4 years ago from Europe

      I'll try the refrigeration idea, I mostly pickle blind as my eyes water so much in minutes.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 4 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Don't interrupt me today - I'm pickling onions!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 4 years ago from UK

      @anonymous: Ah, now that sounds like a great ideaa. Thanks I will try that with this years batch

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Doreen - I put mine in the fridge before I start as this helps with the watery eyes.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 4 years ago from UK

      @anonymous: Nice one!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I wear a diving mask to peel onions. I look ridiculous but it works a treat as the vapour cannot reach your eyes!

    • Ben Reed profile image

      Ben Reed 4 years ago from Redcar

      Pickled Onions - tasty.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      @jenny-archer-9: Thanks for the idea, I will try this next year. Got lots to be going on with now.

    • profile image

      jenny-archer-9 5 years ago

      Like mine sweet pickled in Cider Vinegar...without too many spices.

    • Melissa Miotke profile image

      Melissa Miotke 5 years ago from Arizona

      This sounds good, I love onions pickled or otherwise!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      @AlleyCatLane: Thanks for that strange sounding tip, I think I have enough to start a section on how to prevent your eyeswatering now, LOL

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 5 years ago

      I have never had pickled onions but I think I would like them. By the way, my grandma swore that holding a piece of bread in your mouth with the majority of it hanging outsdide your mouth prevented the tears when cutting onions.

    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 5 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      I have been peeling onions for many years. When I first started my eyes would tear up, but they soon stopped that. I peel them by cutting off the root but not all the way using the remaining portion to start the peeling. That gives me a good place to peel the remainder. I just use my fingers to catch up a layer and peel it off as far as I can then continuing on. Works good for me. I too find peeling under a stream of water from the faucet too time consuming.


    • victoriahaneveer profile image

      victoriahaneveer 5 years ago

      Ooh I love pickled onions! My Grandad used to make his own but I've never tried it. I think I will now. You have inspired me.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      @GonnaFly: Interesting tip but perhaps a little too far for those of us who don't wear contact lenses, LOL

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 5 years ago from Australia

      Oh - I found that my eyes didn't water when I wore contact lenses.

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 5 years ago from Australia

      My husband loves pickled onions but I've never made them. I'll have to see if I can find some pickling vinegar.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      @XenasDeals: Mmmm, thanks - have not tried this one but I feel, a new variety of pickled onions in my kitchen cupboard this christmas

    • XenasDeals profile image

      XenasDeals 5 years ago

      Love malt vinegar pickled onions with coriander seeds in it

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      @anonymous: LOL, That seems a great idea. Thanks for the suggestion.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      FYI wear swimming goggles when pealing the onions no tears:)

    • stevel58 profile image

      stevel58 5 years ago

      Brings back memories of my Aunt.

      She used to make enough pickles to supply the street.

      Never found any that taste as good as hers or is is my memory tainted by time.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 5 years ago

      I've never made pickled onions, but come from a long line of canners. I may try this in the fall for my Christmas gift baskets.

    • PaulWinter profile image

      PaulWinter 5 years ago

      My dad used to grow onions for pickling every year. We always had home grown pickled onions in the house.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 5 years ago

      Nice lens

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      I'm feeling like a pickle ... a pickled onion no less. Don't believe I've ever had them. Normally, I'm into pickled pickles. Sounds tasty.

    • GeekGirl1 profile image

      GeekGirl1 5 years ago

      Sounds delicious.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I was in the neighborhood and my mouth started watering again for your pickled onions!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Its mouth watering to return here to post this lens to FaceBook.

      Well deserving of some angel dust! :D

    • iWriteaLot profile image

      iWriteaLot 6 years ago

      I've got to try this. I've never heard of pickling vinegar but I live in a small, farming community so I'm sure someone around here knows where to get it. I love onions but I don't think I've ever had pickled onions. I like how you included all the steps and ingredients.

    • Inkhand profile image

      Inkhand 6 years ago

      After reading this lens, I tried to make my own pickle onions, it was a lot of fun. I think pickled red onions taste better than white ones.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      These look good, but I have to admit that I don't like my pickled onions too strong. Excellent guide to pickling your own, blessed.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 6 years ago from Canada

      Well done. I don't think I've ever had a homemade pickled onion.

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 6 years ago

      When you peel the onions, try putting a piece of bread in your mouth, sticking straight out in front of your face. This acts as sort of an onion vapor shield. It's also kind of a pain, but worth a try!

    • profile image

      Andy-Po 6 years ago

      Great lens. I love pickled onions, but have never actually made my own.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      only time I've seen picked onions was on the bizarre foods with andrew zimmern on the travel channel, they looked so good so I was impressed to read about this on your lens, 'thumbs up' for this!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      Loved how you wrote this article out. My husband loves pickled onions but I have yet to make them. You have encouraged me.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 7 years ago

      This is another fabulous topic and well done lens. Top marks and featured on Pickles.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      That was me in the back, asking the difference between onions and shallots, lol! These sound wonderful and much less expensive than buying them. I"ll have to try it some day when I'm up for a good cry. Wonderfully done!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 7 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I love your commentary, along with your great instructions. I've never tried pickled onions, but someday I will. I've lensrolled this to my Pink Pickled Eggs lens - what a great fit!

    • profile image

      poutine 7 years ago

      My mom used to do this and it was so good.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Oh my goodness, these sound just wonderful! Thank you for showing us how to make homemade pickled onions, I can do this!

    • profile image

      jeansjems 7 years ago

      These sound Wonderful John! I have only had them in a Gardenia mix from the store. And you are right not good and really squishy. I love pickled cauliflower the spicier the better. I just tried pickled green beans this year and they were delish!

    • SueM11 profile image

      Sue Mah 7 years ago from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

      I eat this sparingly as it is a bit spicy for me,lol.

    • profile image

      the777group lm 7 years ago

      Now all I need is a cheese and tomato roll.