I’m going for a little change of tack here and plan to do a little series letting you into the dangerous thoughts of Claire preserving. Let’s start at the very beginning, for it’s a very good place to start and it’s pretty relevant to drinks in the form of beer!
A few of you may know I spent much of my Autumn Sundays in the kitchen cooking up some things I’ve never tried before, half keeping myself sane, half making Christmas presents. Some went well, some went very well and some didn’t go so well, in fact, potentially to the point of me cooking up a paralytic virus, but that’s another story.
I’ve made chutneys and jams before, my final year undergraduate house very conveniently had a large garden lined with blackberry bushes and two apple trees, so out came spiced apple chutney and blackberry jam to moderate success. However this year, while working in a local fruit and veg shop, I was excited to see pickling onions.
I watched these pickling onions for a few weeks, yes I’m the type of girl who watches onions, and wondered if I could do something a bit different with them. After a few Saturdays of pondering, I stumbled across the fact that you can pickle onions with beer, making the world’s best pub snack (who knew pickled onions were a pub snack?!).
I found a number of beer-based recipes that were all quite similar: there’s the Great British Chefs post which intends normal sized onions for a few hours to serve with a dish; and this post from Bits and Bites which is a similar recipe but with smaller onions and from the pictures reassured me I could keep the onions in a jar for several months before christmas. So I used a combination of the two recipes with my own spin: Thornbridge Chiron. Chiron was chosen because it’s a beer close to my heart, it was the first bottle of beer I drank whole, by myself, on the 11th of March 2014.
The pickling onions did not sell massively well. The majority were sold as an alternative to shallots, or when less of an onion was needed, as my favourite Welsh customer gave reason. So I obtained many more of these pickling onions and thought to myself that I would experiment and use Thornbridge Jaipur for a batch. The Jaipur did not smell great initially and I expressed these worries to Twitter, my tweet was responded by Thornbridge Brewer, Will, who assured me that the sweetness would mature with the Jaipur and probably would be quite nice after a while. So there you had it, my spin, not one but two different types of beer pickled onions.
Tracking back, I had thought to myself pickling onions would be even easier than making jam and chutney… WRONG. You have to peel and chop 60 odd little tiny onions, admittedly I actually did forget about that part. But other than that it’s all pretty easy. I used pickling vinegar, easily obtained from most large supermarkets, beer, juniper berries, thyme and honey. You basically boil it all up, pour into sterilised jars and keep for quite a while.
Taste tested at a month in, the flavour hadn’t quite seeped all the way through the chosen onion, but I was assured by my housemate who was indifferent to pickled onions that these were quite nice. My neighbour, who is a pickled onion fan, said she thought they were really sweet and nice and quite a few got eaten by more neighbours at the Boxing Day party. So I consider them a hit? Oh and my neighbour got the Jaipur batch, so I’m glad that one worked out!
So, if you haven’t heard already heard about #tryanuary (don’t try and say it out loud, it’s much better as a hashtag), it is a craft beer movement, powered by Hop on the Bike where the industry is encouraging people to drink responsibly while trying something new this January! I’d quite like to extend this to cooking, so I’m slyly proposing that beer pickled onions could be a good opportunity to #tryanuary with some craft beer and see what combinations you can come up with!