You may need some emotional support for this recipe as peeling 2kg of onions can be a long, tedious and tearful process. Not dissimilar to listening to an entire Coldplay album.

pickled onions

Preparation time: 20-30 minutes over 24 hours
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Skill level: easy


  • pickling onions – 2kg (1.6kg pealed)
  • malt vinegar – 750 ml
  • pickling spiaces – peppercorns, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, star anise, bay leaves, fresh ginger
  • fine seasalt – 500g
  • water – 2 litres
  • sugar

Start by pouring the water into a large pan, adding the salt and bringing up to a simmer. Stir until the salt has dissolved, remove from the heat and set aside to cool down to room temperature.

Meanwhile peel all the onions.

pickled onions

Place the onions in a large bowl, pour over the cooled brine, weigh down with a plate and set aside for 24 hours. This process will slightly soften the onions and draw out some of the excess water.

pickled onions

Pour the vinegar into a pan (not aluminium) and bring to the boil. Tie the spices in a piece of muslin and drop into the vinegar.

Simmer for 5 minutes (you may want to open the windows as the fumes given off are very acrid), turn off the heat, remove the spices and set aside to cool down to room temperature.

Personally I prefer to dilute the vinegar with water (about a third) as this gives a milder flavour – but it’s up to you.

pickled onions

The next day, sterilise some jars by washing them in hot soapy water, rinsing and placing in a moderate oven for 5 minutes. Leave to cool. This amount of onions will require about 3 large jars.

Pack the onions in the jars, add a few peppercorns, a bay leaf and an optional tsp of sugar and pour over the vinegar until the onions are fully covered.

Seal with lids and store for at least a week, but preferably a month.

Verdict: Crunchy and spicy like a good pickled onion should be.

Drink: Some interesting ales from around the world.

Entertainment: Several episodes from the excellent first series of ‘Dinnerladies’


  1. I like the anise in your onions, I’m just thinking about making my second batch and I may try your recipe. Peeling a humungous batch of onions was indeed a tedious and tearful process although it did not make me commit suicide, which is what I might be forced to do if I were made to listen to an entire Coldplay album.

  2. Hi Helen

    Perhaps you are teasing and your record collection is really dominated by the unholy and dreary quadumvirate of Coldplay, Keane, Snow Patrol and Stereophonics.



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