Saturday, 6 November 2010

Pattypans Pickled Onions and Pickled Shallots

I have 4kg of pickling onions to prepare and 4.5 kg of Shallots to prepare over the next few days in readiness for Christmas.  I am late preparing these this year, but should be just enough time.  I spice my own vinegar and then add bay leaves and a home dried chilli to each jar together with some black peppercorns and they are extremely scrummy.  Its all rather organic and  therapeutic.  Sometimes I sweeten them sometimes I don't but they go down very nicely with a lump of cheese and/or a ploughmans.

What all those tears you gasp.  Now I have found a way round this.  I prepare my pickling onions/shallots by putting them into a bucket and then pouring boiling water on until the onions are submerged. I then let them go cold (leave a couple of hours until cold) and then start peeling.  Mimimises the crying from the onions and is the best way I have found for peeling them in bulk.  I am extremely sensitive to onions at the best of times.  Think of me later on when I am sat on my grandma's kitchen stool (a low wooden stool that she used to sit on to do kitchen chores well battered and well loved with me carrying on a family tradition) wading my way through the onions and leaving the onion skins in the bucket and putting the skinned onions into a glass bowl in readiness for being brined overnight.  Satisfying chores that mark the passing of time and of the different seasons.

The onions are then piled into large bowls or buckets if you like and then sprinkled liberally with salt. This helps to take out any excess moisture.  I then wash them well until salt free and drain. Once drained I then pack into sterilised jars, placing the onions in as tightly as I can and using the handle of a wooden spoon to manouvre the onions into as tight a pack as possible.  I then add the home dried chilli, two bay leaves (I have a bay tree in the back garden) and a few black peppercorns per jar. I then add the cold vinegar either sweetened with sugar to taste when the vinegar is warmed through or just cold spiced filling as far as I can.  I keep the onions submerged with a ball of greaseproof paper popped into the gap between the top of the jar and lid and this works very effectively.

I prepare the spiced vinegar earlier on in the season  to allow it time to mature but you can if you want to prepare it there and then but you must take into account that the vinegar is best warmed to help release the full flavour of the spices.  Warmed vinegar makes pickled onions go soft which is not what I want for this preserve.  So it is best use the vinegar stone cold that way you should get nice crisp pickled onions.  I shall cover spiced vinegar in a separate post.

Because I use home dried chillis they can be a bit poky and in all fairness not a lot of people cope well with chilli.  So if the flavour is just as you like it and you don't want the pickle to get any hotter, just remove the chilli, saves the tears.

Another thing that I tend to do when the Shallots are about is peel a load and put them into the freezer. Then when I am doing the Sunday roast  I just pop 3 or 4 (for the two of us  - more if more people) into the pan with the roast potaoes and parsnip and roast until caramelised. I have found that by doing this it also encourages the roast potatoes, parsnip etc to brown and caramelise.  Scrummy.  They can also be popped into stews and casseroles whole from frozen.

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