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How to pickle pearl onions (tiny batch)

Learn how to pickle pearl onions, even with a tiny harvest!

Scroll down for the printable instructions

There was no way around. I had to save the onions. Even if they were maybe still too young to harvest, I didn’t want them to be destroyed by the rats in my neighbourhood. Yes, you’re reading it right. My area is currently severely infested by this pest, as if the covid19 virus wasn’t enough. (Read this article on rats in Brussels, use a translator, it is a real eye opener) They ate all my tomatoes, except for a few that I could save, and I’m pretty sure they would have started on the onions and other vegetables if I didn’t pick them fast enough.

Let’s erase that image and get to the pearl onions.

What can you do with pearl onions?

Of course, I could have made a classic boeuf bourguignon with the onions in it, dive into a specialty cocktail, or try an Indian recipe. “The Internet” says these are possible uses of the pearl onion. But the first thing that gets into my mind, when I think of pearl onions, is pickling. Is there any other way you would use these? My harvest was really small and I do wanted to try pickling for the first time. I only sowed a few and Dionysse (my cat) messed around with them when they just started growing, we’re talking about an extremely tiny batch!

Tiny batch pickled pearl onions and the happy cook
Tiny batch pickled pearl onions and their happy owner

To do this, I looked up an appealing recipe and got started. It was “Handboek Inmaken & bewaren” that helped me out. The complete reference is at the bottom of this article. The recipe had to be adapted and I only made 1/10th of the original. Scroll down to find both versions for 1,2 kg pearl onions and 100 gram (or something like that) pearl onions.

Sterilise, peel, and blanche

The first thing you have to do is get the little ones out of the ground and peel them. There are several ways to peel pearl onions. You can cut off the root and the leaves and peel with a knife or your nails. Make sure to wash your hands, always! Or you can blanche them for a minute and pop them out of their skin. Blanching is boiling a vegetable for a moment and then cooling in icecold water.

small pearl onions to peel with a knife
Peeling pearl onions, or “zilveruitjes” (Dutch) is a tedious job

Now, make sure you have all ingredients close to you. You’ll need vinegar, sugar, turmeric, salt, chilipeppers, black peppergrains and coriander. Put this close to you, on your kitchen counter or whatever spot where you’re working. After you’ve peeled them, you’ll have to blanche all pearl onions in slightly salted water and blanche them for 3 minutes.

pots and timer for boiling and blanching
Get those pots and your timer ready!

When the pearl onions are cooling in their icecold bath, those tiny ice bears, you’ll have to sterilise your glass jar. You can do this in the oven, definitely also look up how to do this, my mother says it is the easiest way! I did it in a large pot of boiling water, because my oven isn’t its cleanest state at the moment. Boil water, put in the jar and lid, let the whole boil for a while. Be careful when you take them out! You don’t want to get burned.

Mix that vinegar cocktail!

Now, mix the vinegar, water, turmeric and salt in a pot and heat it until it boils. Fill your jars with the pearl onions and add the boiling liquid on top. Immediately firmly close the lids of the jars. For the next part, you’ll have to heat some water again. Put the jar(s) in a large pot with water. To make sure they don’t touch the bottom of your cooking pot or another jar, you can wrap towels around them. As you see in the video, I had to wrap them completely as I only had one towel. Let them cook on 90°C for 30 minutes. You can guess the temperature if you see tiny bubbles around the pots or you can be sure with a thermometer. The last option is absolutely recommendable! I don’t have one unfortunately. Once this is done, take the jars out of the pot and let them cool. Store in a dark and cool place. Wait at least three weeks to open a jar and taste your creation.

tiny pickle jar with pearl on ions
This is the endresult of my tiny pickling adventure

The taste should be spicy

I’m not yet at the tasting part, but I feel quite confident the recipe is a good one. The execution may have been a bit sloppy because of a lack of good materials and too small quantity of onions. I wish you the best with your pickle experiments! One last advice, be careful with certain foods, because not everything is suitable for experiments like these. You don’t want to end up in a hospital with food poisoning. I’m maybe exaggerating, but be careful anyway.

Certainly watch the video I made for this recipe!

Don’t forget to like the video!

And subscribe to my Youtube channel 😊

The recipe

Pickled pearl onions ingredients
Pickled pearl onions recipe


Handboek inmaken & bewaren” Petra Casparek, Erika Casparek-Turkkan. Deltas (2014)

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