Pickled shallots are a staple in my house. Ever since I was young I can remember always remember the joy of biting into a tart, sometime face puckering pickled onion. I now make pickled shallots, after a few years of experimentation, so I have a plentiful supply in the house for whenever the mood takes me.
I love working on a recipe and developing it over time, fractionally improving it over months and years and that is how I come to this version of a pickled shallot recipe. It started with onions and eventually transitioned to pickled shallots because I prefer the texture and they are much easier to find in the supermarket than pickling onions. Then can the pickling spice and vinegar, different spices and different vinegars to try and find the best version I could. This pickled shallot recipe is the result of all those previous attempts.
Why Pickle Shallots & Not Onions?
I find this recipe works really well with shallots. They are around the same size of pickling onions at around 1 inch or so across, however, the texture of shallots tends to be a little more delicate. Occasionally you will get an onion that has a tougher outer layer and shallots don’t tend to have this problem. This is why I prefer to pickle shallots.
What Vinegar For Pickling Shallots?
Malt vinegar is probably personal preference. I have found my best result come from using traditional malt vinegar. Malt vinegar has a robust, powerful flavour that can compete with the prickly and fierce tartness of the shallots. Cider vinegar can go well but I don’t think the cider vinegar flavour comes through in the shallot as well as malt vinegar.
Along with the malt vinegar we will be bolstering the flavour with pickling spices and if you like heat a few chilli flakes. This will permeate the onions as they are stored for a month or more.
Acidity of the Vinegar Needs To Be At Least 5%
Of course, you can decide for yourself what vinegar is best to use but you do need to make sure the acidity is high enough to pickle the shallots.
When buying your vinegar make sure the acidity is at least 5%. Occasionally you will find pickling vinegar which will almost always be over 5% acidity. This is important as the pH of the pickled shallots is what keeps them from spoiling when sealed in the jar.
These pickled shallots are stored in sealed jars at ambient temperature not in the fridge so be sure to check the acidity of the vinegar you are using in this recipe.
A Small Amount Of Sugar
To provide some balance to the flavour of the already acidic shallots and the vinegar a bit of sugar is good. I have tried this recipe without sugar and the shallots tend to be to mouth puckering. The sugar brings balance and gives the finished flavour a little more body.
Preparing Shallots for Pickling
Shallots or onions take a little bit of preparation to get them ready for pickling. Peeling several kilos or pounds of shallots can be a bt tedious. Fortunately, a few simple tips can help speed the process up.
To begin, add all the shallots into a large bowl, big enough to fit all the shallots at once. Bring some water to a boil and pour it over the shallot so they are submerged. They tend to float but this isn’t a big issue. Allow the shallots to sit for a few minutes.
After a few minutes, drain the shallots. This soaking process will loosen up the skins and make peeling a lot easier.
Trim the bottoms and tops of the shallots and then slide them out of their skins. Hopefully this process will make peeling all the shallots a little less painful. It is not a fun job but well worth the effort.
Pickled Shallot Recipe
Pickled Shallots Ingredients – Make 2 – 3 Large Jars
1kg Peeled Whole Shallots (prepared as above)
750ml Pickling Malt Vinegar (5% acidity)
2 tbsp Pickling Spice
2 Bay Leaves
1 tsp Chilli Flakes (optional)
1. To begin take place the shallots in a large bowl. Make up a brine solution using 75 grams of sugar per 1 litre of water and cover the shallot with the brine. Leave the shallots overnight, this step will draw liquid out of the onions, preserve their texture when they are pickling and enhance their flavour as well as stopping the vinegar being diluted with excess water.
2. After at least 12 hours of soaking drain the shallots and rinse thoroughly in fresh cold water. You will want to rinse and change the water a few times to remove any excess salt.
3. Now we can prepare the pickling vinegar. In a pan heat gently heat the vinegar and dissolve in the sugar. Whilst the vinegar is heating add the pickling spice, bay leaves and chilli flake if you are using. I like to use a tea strainer so I can easily remove the spices later. If you don’t have one you can use a strainer.
4. Bring the pickling vinegar to a boil for a few moments and then remove from the heat.
5. Place the shallots into sterilised jars that are still hot, I like to sterilise jars and their lids in the oven using this method. A jar funnel can help here as well.
5. Pour over the vinegar and completely cover the shallots with the vinegar. Seal the jar with the sterilised lid straight away. Once the jars cool a vacuum is formed completely sealing the jars in an airtight fashion.