March 20, 2014

Homemade Pickled Red Onions

Brent is out of town on business. He left on Sunday and is returning this Friday. The day he left, I tracked his flight the whole 2 hours and 5 minutes from Seattle to San Francisco, like a crazy person. I hugged him tight before he left and told him how much I loved him. I thought about all of those people who have loved ones missing on the Malaysian flight 370. I think about those people every day. It seems to be consuming me lately. I find myself watching the same stories on loop for like 5 hours a day. I pray that they are all safe and that we find them soon. Sometimes, when my mind starts to wander, I find myself trying to come up with theories that mostly involve plot lines from dramatic tv shows, because this is how I deal.

Whenever Brent leaves home for work, I find myself actively trying to keep busy. I plan more. I make an effort to leave the house more. I try to be more normal, more social. I also leave my dirty clothes all over the floor until the day before he arrives, when I gather the trail from my bed to the bathroom and jam them into the washing machine. I let the dog sleep on his side of the bed, and I eat cereal straight from the box for dinner. On paper, I've got it together, but I'm actually a real mess.

The day before he left, we got some front row tickets to a soccer game. I knew there would be some sort of veggie dog situation involved, so I agreed. I really could care less about any sports related thing, so he has learned to work it from the right angle and leave me a trail of treats from our house to the stadium, and then more food related things to follow. We arrived at the stadium 30 minutes late (of course, that's our nature). Seattle was playing Toronto, my new town versus my old town. People were really excited, screaming things that didn't make much sense to me - profanity and soccer related terms. As soon as we arrived I ordered a beer (because that's what you do when you watch sports related things, I've learned), and then went on a quest for a veggie dog. My mission was sidetracked when I noticed a big sign for 'The World's Famous Garlic Fries', and if it's got 'World's Famous' in the title you've got to try it. Later in the evening I regretted my decision to consume 1/2 cup of raw garlic, but that doesn't really matter, because those were literally the world's best garlic fries.
After the game, a full day of recovery, and then Brent leaving for a week, I decided that I needed a game plan, and it needed to involve veggie dogs, because my craving was still lingering. I had been meaning to make some pickled onions since the new year, and I thought this to be the perfect opportunity. Pickled onions are one of my favorite condiments. I first discovered my love for them after moving to the West Coast, and discovering that they make a perfect addition to a fish taco.  I then decided to try them on everything, and it's been all pretty positive.

When preparing the onions for pickling, the key to getting nicely shaped, thin onion slices, is with a mandolin. A sharp mandolin. If you own a dull mandolin, the onion will just smash up against the blade shooting onion juice into your eyes, which will amplify the already intense crying situation happening. The first mandolin I received was a wedding gift. It was great for a year, and now it is dull. It's basically just collecting dust in the cupboard. The second one I received as gift for doing a photo shoot. It stayed sharp for about 2 weeks, and is now collecting dust with the other. The third one I just purchased online a month ago for 25$ (the best $25 I have spent on kitchen gear), and I'm pretty sure that one day I am going to slice off my hand with this thing. I don't even like to operate it after a glass of wine. It's terrifying but very effective.

Before Brent left, I created a list of things to accomplish: 1 - make fig newtons 2- make pickled onions 3 - get the dog's hair cut 4 - buy a bathing suit and 5 - go skiing. There are really only 3 things on that list that I am really excited about. So far, I've got the dog's hair cut and made pickled onions, so it's going to be a busy next couple of days before he returns.

I love having homemade pickled onions around the house. They are a perfect topping for sandwiches, fish tacos (or any tacos for that matter), veggie dogs, veggie burgers, and salads. They taste especially good with a little olive oil and sea salt potato chips from Trader Joes. This recipe is slightly sweet, a little tart, and has a lot of pretty fantastic flavors from the spices. Two cups will usually last around 2 weeks in this house. We become a little bit obsessive if there are pickled onions in the fridge. They are just that good.

makes 2 cups

2 small or 1 large red onion, peeled
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Using a mandolin, slice the onions into thin rounds or half moons. The thinness is a matter of personal preference, but I like to slice mine very thin (the second thinest setting on the mandolin).

In a medium sauce pan, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Place the sliced onions into the water and boil for 10 - 60 seconds. The longer you boil, the less pungent onion flavors (sulfur compounds) you will taste in the finished product. Remove the onions from the water and place into an ice water bath for a few minutes. Drain, and squeeze off the excess water. Set to the side.

On medium heat, toast the mustard seeds, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan, until they become aromatic, 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic clove, vinegar, granulated sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring to ensure that the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat.

Place the onions into a mason jar, and then pour the pickling liquid and spices over top. Let cool on the counter before refrigerating. Just before refrigerating, add the olive oil, cover with a tight fitting lid, and then store in the fridge for  2 - 4 weeks. If there are signs of spoilage after 2 weeks, discard.


  1. *that color* how could you not love it? you're making me crave a hot dog now, no baseball game needed! although that would be fun too because beer and garlic fries.

  2. You remind me so much of myself in this post, it's a little scary. When my fiance is gone for a few days, I also give myself lots of projects, let the dog sleep on his side of the bed, and in general act like a crazy person. I'm so glad to know I'm not alone! I'm not sure how I feel about pickled onions, but your post makes me want to try them.

  3. This is the second pickled red onion recipe I’ve seen in a week, surely, a sign that I should be pickling onions too, and soon. I like your addition of bay leaf and mustard seeds.
    ~Keep keeping busy, Brent will be home soon :-)

  4. I really relate to this! I love our home so much more when my husband is there. I love cooking for him, and when he is gone, I just don't have as much passion for it. I also like to eat cereal out of the box!
    Beautiful photos and wonderful words. I love the colors in the photos.

  5. Love this! I'm a fan of anything pickled, really - I've just never done anything other than cucumbers. Time to step out of my pickle comfort box, I suppose! Thanks for the inspiration. This looks lovely.

  6. You are starting to freak me out now. Chris is out of town on business AND I just bought my first box [the exact one you have] of Maldon salt TODAY. This probably means we should be neighbors. We could pass the onions from our front porches.

  7. My husband travels in the Orient twice a month {for as long as I can remember} and having and raising three children with this schedule still humbles me {my oldest is 18}. After all of these years, I still do not sleep until I receive the text that he has landed at his destination. It is a tour of duty that never ends but we love each other and I support him in his career and he in mine. Still, time of travel is never easy...

  8. wowza. I am really digging the bright pink hue of these onions. They are basically the onions of my dreams.

  9. What a cute post! loving the way your onions look and we do like the sweet and tart appeal. Will have to make this.

  10. Ooooh, pickled onions! I love them but somehow I've never made them at home. A bit strange... Well, now that I've got this awesome looking recipe, I simply have to make a batch. Can't wait for the pink goodness!

    Have a great Friday (he's back home!!),


  11. I love your list of things to accomplish! I usually do a lazy quick-pickle version of onions for topping, this looks deliciously proper. Agreed that mandoline slicing is terrifying yet efficient. I've had some nasty accidents, I won't lie, but look!:: potato gratin in 4 seconds.

  12. Love pickled red onions! Made them for the first time recently and they lasted forever in my fridge (I made a lot). Such a nice condiment to have on hand. I add it to tacos (especially carnitas), salads and lentils but have never thought of pairing them with potato chips? Will have to try that one out.

  13. I feel like we may have the same taste buds...

  14. Ditto Molly, that color! Shaun left for Arizona this morning. Tonight's dinner consisted of 2 almost-stale cookies and white wine. You're clearing accomplishing LEAPS AND BOUNDS more on your cooking list than I am mine. ;) xxoo

  15. Your description of how sharp your mandolin is made me laugh so hard that I scared my cat. I have a knife that I feel similarly about, always looking at it sideways in case it decides to turn on me.