Peppercorn & Honey Pickled Onions
I wish someone could explain to me why red onions are called red onions when they’re really purple.
Red, purple, whatever color they are, they are pretty in green salads, pasta salads, grain salads, all kinds of salads. But here’s the rub – red onions are supposed to be fairly mild and a bit sweet, but more often than not I find that they have a pretty strong bite with a tendency to overwhelm other flavors. A simple fix for this problem is to pickle your onions first. They’ll be a bit briny from the vinegar and sea salt, and also have a little sweetness from the honey.
My obsession with pickled onions began last spring when I went to one of my favorite places, the Bedford Springs Resort. At breakfast on Sunday morning, they had a fresh salsa that they were serving with eggs. Salsa and eggs is a favorite combo of mine, so you can be sure I scooped it up and as is my usual practice whenever I eat there, I did my best to analyze it. It tasted so bright, with just a hint of something interesting. Admittedly, most people would just eat the salsa, enjoy the salsa, and not give any further thought to the salsa. This is the curse of being a food lover, I suppose. You can’t just sit and enjoy the salsa, you have to figure out why you are enjoying the salsa.
Long story short, the hint of interesting in the salsa was pickled onions and I immediately became a convert. If the chefs in the Crystal Room have determined that pickled onions belong in salsa, then far be it from me to argue. Now, in fact, I put pickled onions in everything. Summer salsa gets the pickled onion treatment (of course), as does every variation of wild rice and/or quinoa salad that I have made in the past year (which, trust me, is a lot). They now go in pasta salad and they top hamburgers & tacos. I’m telling you, pickled onions – they are the answer to countless food-related quandaries. My new motto is “When in doubt, add pickled onions.”
The recipe I like best is this one from Bon Appetit because it mixes water with the vinegar which results in a pickled onion that isn’t quite so pickled, just slightly pickled, which is how I prefer it. I have modified it slightly substituting honey for sugar and I add some black peppercorns. I found that you get a milder pickled onion if you refrigerate them right away for a few hours instead of leaving them out on the counter at room temperature for an hour. But you never know, maybe that countertop test group was just a stronger-flavored onion. Try it both ways, see what works best for you; you can’t really mess it up. Aim for water that is slightly warm, but not hot. You only need it warm enough to help dissolve the honey and salt.
I like making a big batch because I tend to use a whole bunch at once when making salsa or a grain salad, but you can just as easily halve the recipe and make a smaller amount. Once pickled, the onions will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
- 2 red onions, sliced
- 3 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 T. peppercorns
- 1 T. sea salt
- 3 T. honey
- 1. Whisk salt and honey in warm water until dissolved. Stir in vinegar.
- 2. Place sliced onion in a 2 quart container or jar with a tight-fitting lid.
- 3. Pour vinegar mixture over top of onions. Add peppercorns. Cover jar.
- 4. Refrigerate onions for at least 4 hours.
- Once pickled, onions will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.