Italian families have a tomato sauce day, but the Smith family had a Pickled Onion night. Once a year Mum bought bags of small brown pickling onions, assembled the vinegar & spices, washed the jars and issued the order “If you want to eat pickled onions this year you have to stay home and help”. Not a job any of us particularly liked doing as top and tailing the onions and removing the skin may not sound all that hard, but in bulk it’s a big job. So with my Dad and brothers, who usually stayed well away from the kitchen, we set to work, with Mum supervising of course. The result was jars and jars of lovely pickled brown onions. They were eaten straight from the jar, if Mum didn’t catch you, appeared on salads, with plates of cold meat and in sandwiches – cheese and pickled onion was one of Dad’s favourites. They usually lasted all year and a fresh batch was always anticipated. While they may not be as popular these days, the Smith family still love them. I hope you enjoy them as much.Pickled Onions cropped


(Fowlers Saucette is no longer available but we do now have pickling spices so I’ve substituted them and added a few more directions)

  • 2kg pickling onions, peeled (see note below)
  • 2.5 litre Malt Vinegar
  • 2.5 litre sherry
  • 1kg sugar
  • 60g salt
  • 8 tsp pickling spices or
  • 1tsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp mustard seed, 1 tsp black peppercorns, 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • cloves

Peel onions and soak with salt overnight. Next day drain (do not leave longer than overnight as you want the onions to be crisp). Rinse and dry with kitchen towel. Pack onions into sterilized jars add a few cloves to each jar.

Boil vinegar, sherry, spices and sugar together and let cool. Pour liquid over onions and seal jars.

NOTE: To shorten the onion peeling process you can top and tail the onions, then put the onions in a large heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to cool and once the water is cool the skins will just rub off. Drain and pat the onions dry, but don’t leave in the water once it has cooled as the onions will start to go mushy.

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