How to Pickle Onions and Other Vegetables in Vinegar?
Pickling is a method of preserving vegetables, fruits and other foods that is hundreds, if not thousands of years old. Before the days of refrigeration and freezing, this was one of the ways to keep food for lean times of the year. Prepared vegetables are kept immersed in brine (salt and water) or vinegar. Often, a preservative or firming agent like Calcium chloride is added to maintain crispness and prolong life.
1. the quantities given here are approximate, only a guide. Nothing needs to be precise. It is a recipe (or procedure) that can be done with appropriate veg./fruit left over from preparing a meal, for example. It doesn't need to be an afternoon's work!
2. Choose vegetables very carefully, they must be fresh, crisp and without blemish. Things I have tried and that work for me include onions, red cabbage, carrots (surprisingly good!), lemons, with and without 'pickle crisp' (for Moroccan dishes) and ginger rhizome. The latter I use a little red cabbage colouring to give it a Japanese look. Wonderful flavour. I have not had success with small whole cucumbers using this method. I think they are brined first.
3. If you can, use jars with plastic sealed tops, as found on some coffee jars. They do not corrode, and have the advantage of being able to 'pop off' if there is a gas build up inside the jar. It has never happened to me, but...you never know! Always label the jars with date of pickling.
4. Spices (often seen in supermarket jars of pickles) really don't add much, as most of the 'flavour chemicals' are not water soluble to any extent. Fresh chillies could be used, if slit open.
5.Calcium chloride is available in 'food quality'. It is hygroscopic, and absorbs water readily, so store in a glass jar with a non-metal lid, as the chloride ion will corrode the lid. Ensure the lid fits really tightly; else the jar will be filled with very damp crystals, if not puddles of solution!
6. One word of warning. Never put veg./fruit back into the jar, and always use a clean spoon or fork to remove the pickled items. Stainless steel or plastic spoon/fork would be good, other materials would not.
Vegetables of choice; small, pickling onions/shallots, cabbage, carrots, ginger, lemons or other vegetables or fruit of choice. The amount is approximate, whatever you have, from half a jar to a few jars worth.
Good quality vinegar of choice, enough to cover the vegetables. Quality of vinegar is important. Clear malt vinegar is good for onions
About 1/2 tsp. of food grade Calcium chloride (pickle crisp) per pint/500ml. of vinegar
Himalayan salt to taste, about 1 tsp. per half litre jar.
Any spices/chillies, if you want
1 pint/half litre glass jars with plastic seal lids.
Prepare, wash and cut vegetables into user friendly sized pieces (not too big!), by which I mean slice cabbage, carrots, ginger, lemons into sizes to be used.
Place in washed vegetables/fruit in jars. The jar doesn't have to be full. You can add more if/when more is available
Add salt, pickle crisp and spices-if used.
Pour vinegar into the jars, so that the salts and spices are washed down into the fruit/vegetables. It should just cover the vegetables, leaving a little space at the top. Do not fill the jars completely.
Close lids. Clean bottles and label them.
Leave the jars of pickle in plain sight in the kitchen or utility room so you can see that things are proceeding well.
After a few weeks, they can be stored, a cool room is best. Pickles should be OK for a year. I have some onions which are 5 years old, and still crisp!