Sweet onion pickles

Just a quickie post this time, because it’s canning season again, and I’m getting busy. My season starts with strawberries and other lovelies from California (mostly just halving and freezing to buy sweet time), but it’s also a great time for pickling the early birds. Since canning season means more al fresco dining, I think a sweet pickled red onion is just the thing.

Farmers’ markets in Portland are purging the last of the vernal goodies, and purple spring onions and sweet brine make swell bedfellows. Rows of rosy pink jars are an instant gratifier on a freshly-dusted pantry shelf.

Here’s what to do: Peel and thinly slice (1/8″ is not too ambitious) two pounds of red onions. While you’re doing all that slicing, get your brine boiling. The brine is two cups apple cider vinegar, a half cup water, one tablespoon kosher salt and 3/4 cup sugar. I add a teaspoon each of white mustard seed, peppercorns and coriander seed, a half teaspoon of celery and caraway seed, plus I add two cloves and a bay leaf to each of the four wide mouth pint jars. Stuff the onion slices in as tightly as possible without crushing them and pour the hot, spiced brine over the top. Wipe the rims and properly and tightly affix the lids, then process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes (starting the timer after the water returns to a boil, natch).

The hot brine takes the edge off the onions, and though the natural sweetness of the onions is enhanced, these pickles do not cloy. I boorishly ate half a jar of these with country pâté on a bagel, I admit it. My new favorite lunch is a cheese and sweet onion pickle sandwich on rye, but these are also wonderful on a hot dog or a steak taco. They pair well with salmon and rosé, and not just aesthetically. They are pretty in pink, and a perfect way to kick off any canning season.