Growing shallots and onions was surprisingly easy to do and what a yield! So far I’ve given away about 4 strings and made 8 large jars of my Fiery pickled shallots.
Of course when you get such a fantastic crop you’ve got to store them properly, otherwise what’s the point? All of that hard work and effort would be wasted because the crop will spoil and I’d be left with a pile of mouldy onion skins! So I set about finding the best way to store them.
Pickled onions were a given, especially because my husband loves them – hence the Fiery pickled shallots (I’ve posted the recipe below). But you can’t pickle them all can you? Shallots, particularly the banana ones, are so lovely and sweet and are perfect for salsas, tarts, curries or even just roasted whole. I also wanted to see the rewards of my efforts rather than just tuck them away in baskets or the garage.
So, I had a ponder for a bit and thought – lets display them! Inspired by the farmers markets in France and the lovely displays of strung garlic and onions I set about doing just that.
I had to google how to string them, and was surprised to find that it’s super easy – I’ve listed the steps below (sorry not up to vlogging yet!) But there are some great video’s on the web if you want to see how it’s done:
- Dry your onions in the sun for a bit.
- Trim the ends to about 5cm.
- Cut some string, about 4ft, and make a loop.
- Hang your loop from somewhere where you can easily stand without bending (I used the back of a door).
- Start at the bottom and tuck an onion end through each side of the loop, bending it back on itself as you go.
- Repeat on the opposite side with the next onion (to balance out your string) and continue until you’ve either used up all of your onions or string.
Whilst mine are not the neatest job in the world I love the look I ended up with. I’ve hung them from the Welsh dresser in my kitchen along with the garlic I grew (also an amazing crop)!
Below are a few pictures of the growing process, they do take a while, I planted these in the autumn of 2016 and only harvested them in June. But it was worth the space and effort. I’m absolutely going to grow them again next year, but perhaps a few less!
Here is my recipe for fiery pickled shallots. They are everything a good pickled onion should be – crunchy, packed full of flavour and fiery – enjoy with a good hunk of strong cheddar cheese and some buttered homemade bloomer loaf.
You can adapt this recipe to suit your own tastes. If you don’t want as many jars, just reduce the quantity of ingredients accordingly. Likewise, if you don’t like them as spicy you can reduce the amount of spice or chilli to your tastes. For other recipes on my site please follow this link.
Fiery pickled shallots
Really easy to make and can be kept for up to a year.
- 1 KG of shallots or other small onions
- 140g of coarse salt (the crystal kind is best) For the pickling vinegar
- 5 – 10 dried birdseye chillis
- 1tbsp of peppercorns (I used a mixture of pink and black)
- 1tbsp of fennel seeds
- 1tbsp of yellow mustard seeds
- 5-6 cloves (no more, it makes it soapy)
- 1tbsp of coriander seeds
- 1/2 tbsp of all spice berries
- 1/2 tbsp of dried rosemary
- 4 pieces of mace blade or you can use dried orange peel (one for each jar)
- 4 x bay leaves (one for each jar)
- 100g of light muscavado sugar
- 700 ml (approx) of white wine or cider vinegar
- The day before you want to pickle, put your onions in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and leave to cool. The skins should just slip right off. Don’t forget to trim any root ends.
- In a large bowl, dissolve the salt with 300ml of boiling water add 1 litre of cold water (this is your brine). Add your onions and leave overnight. If the brine does not cover the onions completely top up with cold water. You can weigh your onions down with a plate if you like.
- The next day, drain they brine from your onions and give them a good rinse with lots of cold water. Pack them into sterilised jars, make sure you give them a good push down.
- Make the pickling vinegar by toasting the whole spices in a pan until they give off an aroma (a few seconds really) – be careful not to use too much heat as they’ll burn and taste bitter. Add the rest of the ingredients, including the sugar and vinegar and bring up to a gentle simmer stirring until the sugar has dissolved, don’t boil it, it’ll ruin the taste. Remove from the heat and it let cool a little. Pour over the onions, making sure to get a piece of bay and peel in each jar then seal. Leave for at least a month to ‘mature’ then enjoy.