Monday, April 27, 2020

Joey's Pickled Red Onions

   Ever since I learned how to preserve things in jars, I've had a sort of bucket list of things I'd like to make. Slowly but surely, I'm working my way through that list, ticking each box, and then moving on to the next one. One of the main criteria for landing on that list is that it needs to be something that you wouldn't normally see at the grocery store. Like, for instance, my pineapple basil jam. Not exactly your standard fare, would you say? Or how about raspberry rhubarb jam? As delicious as it was unexpected! I've even done pickled peaches and pickled water melon rind. Who knew? Not everything has been met with the greatest response, but in all honestly, I've loved every single one of my projects. I think the pickled pineapples were pretty high up on that list! And also the candied jalapenos. Fabulous! But I digress..
 So that brings me to my latest project. Pickled red onions! Have you ever tried them? They're great on sandwiches, burgers, salads, and according to my nephew, Gregger (who requested them), they're especially great on fish tacos! My first thought was that I wanted the sharp onion flavor to mellow out a bit, and I wanted them to be a little bit sweet to go with the sour.
 Once again, true to form, I found many recipes online, but none was exactly what I had pictured in my head. So I started with a pretty basic recipe, and then didn't follow it. LOL I mean, yes, I used the same ingredients, but I changed literally every single amount to suit my own taste. How does one do this, you may ask? Well, you TASTE it! I always like a stronger hit of vinegar when I'm making pickles, and I like a hit of sweetness too. So, right away I changed the vinegar to water ratio. And then I added more sugar, tasting as I went, until I found exactly the right blend of sweet, sour, sharp, and pungent. FABULOUS! Then after I figured out what was going into it, I let the onions hang out for a while in the brine, just to relax in their briny hot tub for a while. The result was literally EXACTLY what I wanted. The jars are beautifully pink, the onions were more mellow and smooth, and the flavor was spot on. Now that I've made them, I think I may have to add them to the yearly rotation along with canning my Jersey Tomatoes, and making bread and butter pickles. They're just absolutely delish! This one's for you, Gregger!

5 cups apple cider vinegar
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
3 tbs mixed peppercorns
8 bay leaves
6 lbs red onions

Place all ingredients except onions in a large pot over high heat. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low simmer. Meanwhile, peel and THINLY slice all the onions. You can use a sharp knife, but I used a mandoline. You can also use a food processor. You do you! (Side note, I usually don't use a processor when I'm slicing something for canning because I like the control of cutting exactly how I want them.) After all the onions are sliced, add them to the pot, and turn the heat off. Let the onions sit in the hot brine for a good 15 -20 minutes. They will soften and the brine will turn that lovely coveted pink hue.
 If you're not canning, place the onions in jars, let stand until room temperature, then store in the fridge. They'll last pretty much indefinitely, but I promise you they'll be gone before then!
 If you're canning, wash and sterilize 8 pint-size jars. Fill each jar with onions, then add brine to fill, leaving 1/2 inch of head space. Insert a chopstick or plastic utensil down inside of the jar to release any air bubbles, then adjust head space if needed. Wipe rims clean, apply two-piece lids, then process your jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Remove to a cloth lined tray. Let sit, undisturbed for at least 24 hours.

Definitely taste as you go when you're making the brine. Not sure how sweet you like it? Just add a little sugar at a time. Not sure how sour you want it? Start out with the water, then add the vinegar a little at a time until it's as strong as you want. This is just a basic recipe, but feel free to add anything else you like. Garlic, fresh dill, crushed red pepper flakes, you could even just use store bought pickling spice. It will all work. Customize the flavor profile to fit YOU!

I've discovered that, as they sit in the jars, they can get quite mellow over time, and can become rather sweet. Maybe even just tad too sweet for some. I think I my cut back the sugar and add a little more vinegar next time, just to keep that awesome punch of sour that I love!

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