One of the best bits about the pickled onions is the spicy vinegar. You can buy this ready spiced, but I usually prepare my own well in advance, and then when the pickles are all used up I decant what remains of the vinegar and we use it where you would normally use vinegar as a condiment. Waste not Want not and all that jazz.
You should only really use whole spices and not ground ones on the basis that the whole spices do not cloud the vinegar and give a clearer appearance of the vinegar and preserve whereas using ground spices can and does make the vinegar go cloudy so I tend to steer away from the ground spice, although I have on occasions been known to use them. Ideally you should prepare your vinegars at least two months prior say end of June beginning of July in advance of making your pickles but don't fret if you do not manage to achieve this. There are ways around this.
Method one: This is the cold steeping method where your choice of spices are macerated in cold vinegar in bottles and left to steep for a couple of months. This is perhaps the best way of preparing your vinegar.
Method two: To spice vinegar quickly. Place your vinegar and chosen spices into a piece of muslin and tie so nothing can escape and then pop your pickling bag into your vinegar which you have already placed in a saucepan cover and bring to boiling point. Be warned you will need a window open to get rid of the vinegar fumes whilst doing this. Once boiled, Remove from the heat and leave to steep until cold. Fish out your spice bag and Then strain I usually filter through a couple of pieces of muslin.
Here is the ingredients list for my spiced vinegar to pickling onions:
2 pints of vinegar of your choice
2inch piece of cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon of cloves
1 tablespoon of Mace blades (the outer dried membrane of the nutmeg)
1 tablespoon of allspice berries
1 tablespoon of peppercorns
1 tablespoon of coriander
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon of coriander
For a variation for a hotter spiced vinegar add 1 tablespoon of dried chillies (be careful here) tablespoons of mustard seed or fennel or dill seeds may also be added.
I buy most of my spices from the Asian foodmarket over the road from where I live. They are usually a good source of finding different mustard seeds at reasonable prices as well as most other spices.
If the above ingredients are a little heavy for your tastes half them, or quarter them and then next time you make your own pickled onions if not quite spicy enough you can always adjust the measurements. I am always very cautious with chilli as a rule and tend not to put it into my spiced vinegar, but I do put home dried fresh chillies one per jar direct into the pickles with two fresh bay leaves to decorate the jar and finish off the preserve.
So once you get your vinegar prepared (you can then get on and make your pickles)
I will tell you how I do my pickled onions in a further post including some short cuts I have learned along the way.
I am off to prepare my vegetables for the picallili - the first part is the brining process,
Catch up later