September is the month Hubby normally pickles his onions!
For the uninitiated pickled onions are small onions preserved in vinegar and spices and usually accompany: cheese; turkey or beef sandwiches; fish and chips etc. A strange combination, but trust me absolutely delicious!
In the UK it was so easy to just pop down to the local supermarket and buy pickling onions or shallots; several liters of malt vinegar; and a packet of pickling spices. Bingo! In Portugal this simple task becomes a real challenge spread over several weeks by which time you wonder is it really worth the effort!
Our first task is to find some malt vinegar however, in Portugal it’s like gold dust and when you do eventually find some, it’s VERY expensive. The other option is to use white wine vinegar (min 6% acidity) but personally I am not convinced the onions taste anywhere near as nice. But hey! Beggars can’t be choosers as they say, and we decide to buy some of each.
The mission to buy the small onions takes us several reconnaissance trips to the local Saturday farmers’ market. Frustrated, after several failed attempts to make ourselves understood at the various fruit and veg stalls, the penny finally drops with one of the old farmer boys and we discover the word for little onions is Cebolinhas. Success! We hand-pick a few kilos of onions from a large box under the counter. Mission accomplished. Over to Mr Piglet who is responsible for pickling!
– Small onions
– Malt vinegar or white wine vinegar
– Pickling spices (prepacked) or make your own. A good mix is peppercorns, mustard seeds, dried chillies, cloves, mace, or coriander seed.
– Table or sea salt.
The preparation time is relatively easy and quick, but the onions do need to be left overnight.
Prepare the onions
– Top and tail the onions and remove outer skins.
– Place in a bowl and sprinkle onions with table or sea salt, cover with a clean cloth and leave for 24hrs (the salt helps to draw the moisture out of the onions).
Sterilize the jars
I always have a good assortment of jars of various shapes and sizes available for pickles, jams and chutneys. However, Mr. Piglet moans incessantly as I am loath to throw any jars away and we now have our very own “jar mountain”!
– Wash jars and lids in soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Place jars in the oven and heat to 100C. When the oven reaches temperature, turn off after 5 minutes but leave jars in the oven to cool and dry completely. To sterilize the lids just pour boiling water over them and leave to dry, naturally.
Prepare the vinegar
(Allow 1 teaspoon of pickling spice to 1pint/568ml of vinegar)
If you like your onions hot and spicy bring the vinegar to the boil, add the pickling spice, simmer for 5 minutes, and then allow the vinegar to cool completely before use. Otherwise just add a small pinch of pickling spice to each jar when adding the vinegar
– Simply add the onions to the jars leaving a gap at the top. Cover the onions completely with cold vinegar.
– Cut a circle of cling film and place over the top of the jar before sealing with lid.
Label with date, and if you are experimenting with different types of vinegar or spices don’t forget to note this on the label!
Store in a cool dark place and leave for about a month before eating.
My tip of the year would be to pass on pickled brussel sprouts – they tasted disgusting!
I will pass details of your website onto my contacts and hope you have a busy Christmas.
Our conversation was making me feel very hungry until you mentioned ‘pickled sprouts’! I’m really not sure whether I like the sound of those but I may have to try them just to make sure I’m not missing out. Your blog is lovely, a little ray of sunshine on a cold autumn day in the UK. I flew as cabin crew for 10 years and I remain fascinated by life outside the UK. Thanks for checking out my site, most of my orders come from people overseas sending gifts to mums and grans left in Engalnd but I’ve had a few people recently asking me to send to Ireland, Spain, etc. so I guess I’m going to have to sort that out in the next few days!
We can get brussel sprouts but they have been in limited supply to date. We either have to buy pickled sprouts or frozen. Mr Piglet loves his brussels especially with vinegar on! You have made me particulary envious with the vintage cheddar! Cheddar cheese is very expensive in Portugal. Bubble and Squeak is my favourite Boxing day veg served up with the cold meats, pickled onions and picallili hmmmm.
We have started eating the pickled onions already and they are delicious!
Hope there is some left for Christmas.
PS your website looks interesting – do you deliver to Portugal?
Yum, Mr. Piglet’s pickled onions look delicious! I’m really pleased you tracked down all the ingredients you needed. Now, I’m probably going to make you feel a little envious when I tell you what we had for supper last night! It was ‘bubble and squeak’, vintage cheddar, pickled red cabbage and pickled onions. Can you get sprouts in Portugal?