Let’s get pick­led

Si­mon Lester ex­plains how to bot­tle your own crunchy pick­led onions with­out (too many) tears

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Si­mon Lester re­veals how to pickle onions with­out tears

‘At first your eyes will run, but don’t wipe them–just dab them with a tis­sue. The cry­ing will pass’

THERE’S noth­ing worse than a soggy pick­led onion. When you’ve been look­ing for­ward to that tangy crunch that only a per­fect pickle can de­liver, it’s aw­ful to be let down by a pappy im­poster. Luck­ily, my fam­ily doesn’t suf­fer from this gas­tro­nomic disas­ter, as per­fect home­made pick­led onions have been a mat­ter of course for as long as I can re­mem­ber.

My mother was an in­vet­er­ate pick­ler, as was her fa­ther, who was a great eater of onions raw or pick­led. After years of watch­ing and help­ing at this au­tum­nal event, I took on the man­tle of the fam­ily pick­ler when Mum passed away.

I pickle enough onions to give a cou­ple of jars to fam­ily and friends and have spare jars to take along to shoots, on top of enough to see me through the year. And I’m pleased to say that my onions still crunch one year on. First, select your onions. Go to a proper green­gro­cer and get some good firm pick­ling onions or shallots, which are a lit­tle sweeter. They do vary in size, so, if pos­si­ble, buy medium-sized ones that will pack tightly in the jar, leav­ing only a few gaps be­tween. A good green­gro­cer will or­der the ex­act amount (I usu­ally go for a sack­ful) and the type you re­quire.

Sec­ond, it’s im­per­a­tive to pur­chase a high-qual­ity pick­ling vine­gar. After many years of spic­ing her own malt ver­sion, Mum started us­ing Sar­son’s ready-made pick­ling vine­gar, which comes in a handy pick­ling jar.

A large pack of cook­ing salt is next on the list. Now, as­sem­ble a se­lec­tion of vary­ing sized jars with well-fit­ting lids, a sharp knife, a large bowl, a colan­der, a large meat plate, tea tow­els and a box of tis­sues.

The fun starts as you peel the onions. Don’t over­face your­self—you don’t have to do them in one hit, just do them in batches that suit you. I mea­sure out three colan­der­fuls, as that’s what my Vic­to­rian meat plate will hold. I put them into a big bowl, select a good TV pro­gramme or some mu­sic and sit down to make my first cut, top­ping, tail­ing and peel­ing each onion un­til they’re clean and shiny.

At first, your eyes will run, but don’t wipe them—just dab them with a tis­sue—keep watch­ing the tele­vi­sion or con­cen­trat­ing on the ra­dio pro­gramme and go into au­to­matic mode. The cry­ing will pass, I prom­ise. Fi­nally, carry out a qual­i­ty­con­trol check—any soft or dis­coloured onions need to be re­jected.

Once the colan­der is full, get up, stretch your legs, take the onions into the kitchen, put them on the meat plate and sprin­kle them lib­er­ally with salt. Make a drink and re­peat the process. After the last batch is put on the plate, sprin­kle it with salt and cover your work with a tea towel. Go to bed and hope your spouse likes onions.

In the morn­ing, re­move the tea towel and you’ll see that the salt has drawn out lots of liq­uid from the onions. Take a colan­der of them and rinse in cold wa­ter un­til all the salt has gone, then get two dry tea tow­els, pour the onions on one, cover with the other and roll them around—it’s es­sen­tial that they’re so dry they squeak.

Line up your sparkling-clean jars and pack them tightly with gleam­ing, dry onions. Us­ing jars of var­i­ous sizes en­sures you don’t waste any. Once packed, pour in the vine­gar so that it cov­ers the onions and seal the lids.

Dat­ing the jar is op­tional—the onions are good to go from four to six weeks after they’re pick­led and can be en­joyed for a long time be­fore they go off. How­ever, it’s bet­ter to pickle over a longer pe­riod in or­der to stag­ger the shelf life of the onions in your larder. Place the jars in a dark place and for­get about them un­til the crav­ing for a pick­led onion be­comes too much.

For a vari­a­tion, try adding a chilli or two. I would strongly rec­om­mend la­belling these jars and warn­ing the re­cip­i­ent that the con­tents might be a bit spicy, as they can be rather a shock to the sys­tem. Who you de­cide to give them to will de­pend on the ex­tent of your Christ­mas spirit!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.