(Makes 3-4 jars)
For the pickling liquid
- 500g red onions (about 2 medium onions, although you can easily scale this recipe up)
- 3/4l distilled white vinegar
- 300g caster sugar
- a cinnamon stick
- a few whole cloves
- 1 tbs allspice berries
- a star anise
- a few bay leaves
- 1 tbs black peppercorns, whole
Hot tip: Buy extra spices to put in the jars, they'll look really pretty bobbing around. Don't put them in your pickle at the start of the recipe, though, or they will be overpowering.
Mix all the pickle ingredients together in a stainless steel or similar non-reactive saucepan and bring to boil. Pop a lid on and simmer for a few minutes. Turn off heat and allow mixture to stand for a few hours to infuse spices. You could leave overnight.
Peel onions and slice into rings about half a centimetre thick. Separate rings with your fingers so they become individual. Bring liquid to the boil again, add about half the onions (or as many will fit under liquid). As soon as pickling liquid starts to bubble again, take it off heat and, using a slotted spoon, remove onions and spread them onto a flat dish or tray. Allow to cool completely.
You have to do this twice more, each time allowing them to cool. This may seem a bit long-winded but it means the onions stay crunchy and retain their wonderful colour. To speed up the cooling process you could either pop the onions into the fridge or do as I did and leave them, covered, in the garden.
Once you've completed the cooking and cooling process the third time, pop the onions into sterilised jars, adding a few extra spices if you like and seal. They are ready to eat straight away but will benefit from being left overnight.