Pickling Onions

cziga(Zone 5 -Toronto)August 24, 2012

I have tried a couple refrigerator pickled onions and love them on sandwiches. I want to try to can a batch of them.

I have seen the approved recipes for onions, but they are all for the round pearl onions ... and I want to do slices of red or spanish onion.

I assume I would use the same recipe?

Also, the pearl onion recipe calls for boiling the vinegar solution and then adding the onions into the liquid to half-cook them for about 5 minutes. Is this because all onions need to be part-cooked, or because pearl onions are dense? If I use sliced onion pieces, would I still have to part-cook them before packing, or can I raw pack?

I know this sounds like a silly question, lol, but I've been looking at onion recipes for a long time and can only find BWB canning/pickling recipes for those little round onions!

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Well a couple of issues come to mind as to why you won't find an approved recipe for what you want to do. First, yes you would use the same recipe but using slices is going to cause potential problems and isn't recommended.

Slices of anything tend to compact in the jar preventing the brine to fully coat them. Slices create density issues. Air and bacteria are trapped between them and heat can't penetrate as effectively. That is one reason why you usually see recipes calling for cubes or chopped or chunks rather than slices.

Onion slices would be especially bad at stacking up in the jar - not to mention falling apart into lots of rings and pieces when removed from the jar.

If none of the approved recipes for canning chopped onions or onion relishes appeals to you then I think you'd have much better results with chunking the large onions as one would when canning potatoes. You can then slice the chunks after opening the jar just as one would when using canned potatoes to make fried potatoes.

And yes the pre-cooking is required as a safety issue to insure proper acidification of the onions. And, just as potatoes need to be canned HOT only, so do onions. And that too will lead to more deterioration of your slices.

Another option is canning the caramelized onions. If you search 'canning onions' here on the forum you'll find instructions for several different methods for canning onions safely - but they won't be in slices. I linked one good one below.


Here is a link that might be useful: Canning sweet onions

    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 11:40AM
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The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving has a red onions in vinegar recipe that sounds like just what you want. No time to type it out now, but I can do that later if you need the recipe.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 12:46PM
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cziga(Zone 5 -Toronto)

Dave, that does help to explain why i've had trouble finding a recipe. Carmelized onions are one thing (and wonderful) but I really wanted to can pickled red onion slices for sandwiches as I find we go through lots of them.

If I were to use 100% vinegar, instead of a mix of vinegar and water, would that help? The slices I was thinking of weren't too thick, not whole rings ... more like the photos in this blog page. They are thinner and already separated ... when I make them in the fridge, they separate apart quite easily and as long as I don't pack too thickly, density doesn't seem to be an issue??

This blog I linked to is one I found when searching for the ball red onions in vinegar recipe mentioned above. I'm not sure if this is the exact recipe though, it says 'based on' and that's not always 100%. It is all vinegar (no water), about the size of onion slices I was planning on, and tells you to cook the onions for at least 5 minutes (like Dave said ... I wonder, should I have been doing that for my fridge pickled onions as well, now I'm worried). Do you think this recipe is safe and alright to try??

The blog page is here:

Thanks so much for your advice, I do really appreciate it as I try to figure out which produce from the garden I can safely can/preserve and use during the year!!

Here is a link that might be useful: canning red onions in vinegar

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 2:41PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

As long as you use a 100% vinegar recipe and make sure it is a 5% vinegar or more (some wine vinegar isn't 5%) then ok. And as long as you are happy with the loose rings rather than slices, even better as that eliminates any density issues.

And the recipe you linked goes a safety step further by first cooking the onions in the vinegar so they are well acidified before putting them in the jar.


    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 3:31PM
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I just checked my book against the recipe you linked.

They are virtually the same EXCEPT

The Ball book calls for (7) 8oz jars and give a processing time of 10 minutes. The blog uses (4) pint jars instead with the same processing time.

I'll let the more experienced canners weigh in on this one, but my understanding is you can switch from larger to smaller jars, but not smaller to larger.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 11:03PM
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cziga(Zone 5 -Toronto)

Thank you so much, I'm glad it is a recipe that I can use ...

I think I found the Ball recipe exactly somewhere else... it does say to add the Onion slices into the boiling vinegar for 5 minutes so I guess that is an important safety precaution. It also says 250mL jars for 10 minutes (which is what I would do anyways, the halfpint jars are all I have, lol). I wish they had a time for larger jars, but I'll stick with the smaller ones that the recipe calls for. I've read that too, many times, that you can switch from larger to smaller jars but not the other way around.

Thank you both so much for your help. These are one of our favorite sandwich condiments and I really wanted to find a good recipe to can them for the year using our garden onions in the process ... thank you!!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 12:14PM
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