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The M&2V's Pickled Onions

The M&2V is great at handmade gifts. For my birthday, he carved a wooden block into my initials. When I moved in, he carved the first 3 characters of our postcode onto a new key ring. For Valentine’s Day, he made me a pair of earrings out of black perspex, which read ‘HOT LEFTY’ (we sit at opposite ends of the political spectrum). Usually perspex earrings are made using a laser to cut out the shapes or letters. He used a fine handsaw.

You might imagine I felt rather a lot of pressure when it came my turn to do presents. I am not particularly handy. I can’t draw or paint. I don’t even sew my own hems up – my limit is a button. But I can cook.

The M&2V loves pickled onions. He can easily eat an entire jar in one sitting – something I have asked him to refrain from doing now that we share a bed every night! I am not a big fan of pickled onions, so I asked his mum how he likes them. She gave me some tips on how her mum used to make them and told me that his favourite brand is Garner’s.

Their original pickled onions are made with malt vinegar and spices and described as “tangy”, so that was my starting point for the pickling liquid. I think the most important thing with pickles is getting the balance of sweet and salty right. Tangy to me suggests something more towards the salty and sharp end of the spectrum, so there isn’t a lot of sugar in this recipe.

In terms of spices, I just used whatever I thought would go well from the choice in my cupboard. I don’t think any are a necessity, you could easily mix and match.

A few months later I received a text from the M&2V. It read “the great onion veiling” (he loves a pun), with a picture of an empty jar. I take that as a 10/10.


1 kg small pickling onions or shallots
75g salt
1L malt vinegar
150g sugar
3 mace blades
3 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp all spice berries
1 dried red chilli, or to taste
2 cloves
2 bay leaves, approx.


Top and tail the onions, put in a large bowl and cover with boiling water for 20 seconds. Drain and plunge in cold water. This makes them easier to peel. 

Peel the onions and put in a container. Cover with 50g of salt, cover and put in the fridge overnight.

Put the rest of the ingredients, except the bay leaves, in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Once it reaches boiling point, remove from the heat and leave to infuse overnight.

Rinse the onions in very cold water, then drain and put in sterilised jars, adding a bay leaf to each jar. Pour the vinegar over (cold if you want crunchy onions, reheated if you want soft ones) and seal with a vinegar-proof lid.

Leave in a cool place to mature for 6-8 weeks before eating.

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Reader Comments (1)

What a great idea for a present. I reckon I could follow that recipe easily enough. x

May 2, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMa

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