Pickled Onions

Serve pickled onions as a condiment with any meat. Serve in a salad or with cheese as plowman’s lunch.


  • 4- 1/2 lb (2 kg) small pickling or pearl onions
  • 4 tbsp + 2 tsp (60 ml + 10 ml)) pickling salt
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) black peppercorns
  • 1 -1/2 tsp (7 ml) whole allspice
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) mustard seed
  • 4- 1/2 cups (1125 ml) malt or white vinegar
  • 1 cup (250 ml) granulated sugar
  • 5-10 small hot red peppers, optional
  • 5-10 bay leaves


  • To remove onion skins, blanch onions in boiling water 1 minute; drain; run cold water over onions to chill them quickly; drain again. With a sharp knife, trim off root end; slip off skin and any dried or leathery inner layers. Place onions in large, stainless steel bowl and mix thoroughly with 4 tbsp (60 ml) pickling salt. Cover and let stand 8 hours or overnight, stirring once or twice.
  • Preserving day:
  • Place 5 clean 250 or 236 ml mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner. Cover jars with water and heat to a simmer (180°F/82°C). Set screw bands aside. Keep jars hot until ready to use.
  • Preheating Bernardin® lids is not advised. The sealing compound used for our home canning lids performs better at room temperature than it does pre-heated in simmering water (180°F). Simply wash lids in hot, soapy water, dry, and set aside until needed. Preheating can lead to less vacuum being achieved during water bath canning, and to buckle failures during pressure canning.
  • Drain salted onions, rinse thoroughly in cold running water; drain, pat dry with a towel.
  • Tie peppercorns, allspice and mustard seed in a large square of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag. Combine vinegar, sugar and 2 teaspoons (10 ml) salt in a large stainless steel saucepan; add spice bag; bring to a boil; boil 2 minutes. Add onions and return mixture to a boil.
  • Discard spice bag. If using hot peppers, thoroughly wash them in hot water.
  • Place 1 washed hot pepper and 1 bay leaf in a hot jar. Pack onions into a hot jar to within 3/4 inch (2 cm) of top of jar. Add hot pickling liquid to cover onions to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top of jar (headspace). Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if required, by adding more onions, seasonings and hot liquid. Wipe jar rim removing any food residue. Centre hot sealing disc on clean jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in canner. Repeat for remaining onions, seasonings and hot liquid.
  • When canner is filled, ensure that all jars are covered by at least one inch (2.5 cm) of water. Cover canner and bring water to full rolling boil before starting to count processing time. At altitudes up to 1000 ft (305 m), process –boil filled jars – 10 minutes.*
  • When processing time is complete, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars without tilting and place them upright on a protected work surface. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours; DO NOT RETIGHTEN screw bands.
  • After cooling check jar seals. Sealed discs curve downward and do not move when pressed. Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Store screw bands separately or replace loosely on jars, as desired. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place. For best quality, use home canned foods within one year.