The jar on the front right was the refrigerator batch. You can tell because the onions still look raw. You can also tell which ones were boiled in the brine before canning, as they are more translucent.

I have this depression era reaction to fresh abundant inexpensive produce. I buy a lot of it. Even if I don’t quite know what to do with it all. OK, the first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

Thus was the situation when I saw a 25 lb bag of Walla Walla Sweet Onions for the bargain basement price of $10 back in July. They were huge. They were just harvested. They were sweet and wonderful. The issue is that sweet onions (like Walla Walla, Maui and Vidalia) do not store for long periods of time. They are a seasonal item (which is part of why people go nuts for them). 

But thanks to the proliferation of great preserving blogs out there, I ran across a recipe for red onions pickled with mustard and dill. Hmmm. Never really thought about pickled onions, but because I don’t like the sharp taste and lingering after effects of raw onions on burgers, brats and other traditional fare, a pickled onion on the same might be just what I’ve been looking for. Something new to try…and a way to use up some onions. Inspiration!

I’m really not a big fan of dill in anything but a cucumber pickle (I don’t even like it on fish). But the spices added to pickles of any kind are really at the cooks discretion. And no reason one should not pickle a sweet rather than a red onion. I decided rather than make one big batch, I’d try out three different brines (two from a great article in Eating Well magazine – one sweet and one sour – which unfortunately is NOT on their website) and several different spice combinations and see which one I liked best for next year.

Small Batch Pickled Walla Walla Sweets Four Ways

Brine #1 (makes enough for two pints, with some left over)

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tbsp canning salt
  • 1 ½ lbs walla walla sweet onions, cut into slivers

Bring brine to boil. Pour over onions in large bowl. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Place spices in bottom of two sterilized pint jars. Using tongs, place onions into jars until evenly distributed. Quickly reheat brine, then pour into jars, leaving ¼ inch head space. Bubble jars. Process in boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.

Jar #1

Brine #1 plus:

  • ½ tsp whole mustard seed
  • ¼ tsp celery seed
  • ¼ tsp whole peppercorns

Jar #2

Brine #1 plus:

  • ½ tsp pickling spice

Brine #2 (Eating Well “Get Pickled, Sweet Pickle Brine” August 2010 issue – enough for 1 pint, with some extra)

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp canning salt + rounded ¼ tsp salt (total 1 1/3 tsp)
  • ¾ lb walla walla sweet onions, cut into slivers

Brine #3 (Eating Well “Get Pickled, Sour Pickle Brine” August 2010 issue enough for 1 pint, with some extra)

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp canning salt + rounded ½ tsp canning salt (total 2 2/3 tsp)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ¾ lb walla walla sweet onions, cut into slivers
  • 1 clove garlic, split
  • 1 small jalapeno, split and seeded

Bring brines to boil in two separate pots. Add onions and simmer 5 minutes. Place spices in bottom of two sterilized pint jars. Using tongs, place onions into jars until evenly distributed (leave garlic behind, but keep jalapeno with onions). Pour hot brine into jars, leaving ¼ inch head space. Bubble jars. Process in boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Jar #3

Brine #2 plus:

  • ½ tsp pickling spice

Jar #4

Brine #3 plus:

  • ½ tsp whole mustard seed
  • 1/8 tsp celery seed
  • 1/8 tsp whole peppercorns

Why the longer process time on jars 1 and 2? Because the onions are not cooked in the brine before hand, I treated this as a “cold pack” rather than a “hot pack” recipe. It will be interesting to see if they retain more “crunch” over time.

What to do with that left over brine? I threw it all together, sliced some more onions, and put the whole lot together in the frige with some spice to make refrigerator pickles. So far, I’ve really enjoyed them. Looking forward to trying the rest. Give the recipe a try and let me know what spice combinations are your favorites.

Miles Away Farm Blog © 2010, where we’re miles away from finishing up the last of 25 lbs of onions, but we’re not crying about it.

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