Recipe derived from Pears Family Cookbook by Pelham Books. Reworked by Chris Evans

Unlike the semi sweet American pickled onion, the English version has a much stronger pickled flavor with little or no hint of sweetness. This style may seem a little harsh or overpowering at first bite but I consider it vastly superior to the "tamed" American equivalent. I for one enjoy a really strong pickled onion from time to time.

Ingredients & Containers
Sealable Glass Jar
Any standard glass jar with a sealable screw top will do.
Small Onions
Enough to fill your jar to within a ½ inch of top
Brine Solution 5 Cups Water
½ Cup Table Salt
Pickling Spices

If you can't locate pickling spices then you can make your own. The most common ingredients include varying amounts of the following:

  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Whole Allspice
  • Peppercorns
  • Mace
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Chilies

Spice to Vinegar ratio is: 2 tablespoons of Spice to 1 cup of water

Malt Vinegar













Prepare the Onions
Your onions should all be approximately the same size. This will assure a consistent pickling. Skin enough onions to fill your jar to within a ½ inch of the top. Skinning underwater will help prevent them from turning black later on, not to mention reducing the tears (speaking of tears I usually ware my scuba mask while chopping onions. Looks ridiculous but does the job). In addition to removing the first few layers, cut off the top & bottom also.

Most vegetables contain 80% or more water. The object of brining is to draw out some of this water. Excessive water can dilute the vinegar, which can lead to a poor shelf life.

Prepare enough brine solution to soak all your onions. Mix solution until salt is dissolved then add onions. Cover & let stand for 2 to 3 days.

Spice & Vinegar
Note that this next step will stink up your entire house for days.

You will need enough solution to fill at least ¾ of your empty pickling jar. Mix 2 tablespoons of pickling spices for every 1 cup of vinegar in a pan. Cover, bring to boil then let stand for 2 hours. Strain out the undisolved spices & allow the spiced vinegar to cool if it's not already cold.

Pickling Time
Remove onions from brine, wash & dry thoroughly. Fill jar with onions & cold spiced vinegar (its important that the vinegar not still be hot as cooking the onions even a little will make them mushy in the long run). Seal jar & store in a cool dry place.

How Long to Wait?
Most pickles improve with age (to a point). Although pickled onions can be eaten after as little as 2 weeks pickling time, several months are needed for them to acquire their correct taste. As with most pickled products, these onions should have a good shelf life of 1 to 2 years if done correctly.

Enjoy with cold meats, cheese & crackers or on their own as a tasty snack.