I have more fun making cocktails than drinking them. Everyone has their cooking niche, and though I think I’ve got some skills all around, I get the geekiest when I’m talking about creating items for cocktails. I’ve made my own maraschino cherries, my own ginger syrup (recipe to come), my own cream soda syrup, grenadine and bitters are happening this weekend (thank you, Colonel De, for finally getting in quinine!). There’s nothing quite like making a well-balanced cocktail from homemade ingredients, particularly for someone whose cocktail experience has been subpar– that is, until they met you. Lucky them! The first time I made a daiquiri– simple syrup, lime and rum– for Terry, it was a revelation. I’ll never forget the look on his face, and that’s really why I enjoy it so much.
Making my own cocktail supplies is my elementary way of getting into canning, something I fell in love with as a kid (though, strangely, no one in my family did it– I just read about it frequently and found the idea of pulling jars of preserves or green beans or something else out of the pantry that you canned yourself romantic. Blame Little House on the Prairie). The art of canning and pickling isn’t lost, but it certainly isn’t something that is done as often at home as it used to be, when the fruits of the home garden were preserved for use over the winter. Now, I don’t have a home garden, but pickling and preserving (even just the refrigerator sort of pickle) has definitely piqued my interest in doing some real canning once we have a bounty of spring produce. Jams, jellies… oh yes.
But back to pickled onions. They’re similar to pickling red onions, but the brine is a little different. These are easy to make, and not just good for cocktails– they’re great on a crudite tray, as a garnish, or straight out of the jar. No judgment. The light of the refrigerator illuminates the best of us.
16 oz pearl onions, either fresh or frozen.
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup regular vinegar
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pickling spices (Get the Colonel’s)
If your onions are fresh, peel them. If they’re frozen, pick out any that may not be whole. You want only the ones that are whole and plump (that goes for the fresh ones, too). To be honest, it’s easier to use frozen (and they taste just as good, though they might not be as crisp) as the fresh are a bit fussy to peel. Some of us like to peel. Pick whichever you like.
Place pickling spice in a square of cheesecloth, and tie tightly with butcher’s twine. Make sure the twine is long enough so you can tie one end around the handle of the pot (for easy removal).
In a large saucepan, combine all of the liquid ingredients, sugar and the pickling spice bundle and heat to a simmer. Add the onions, and boil for just a minute. Remove spice bundle. Pour into sterilized pint jars, place the covers on top, and allow them to come to room temperature. Refrigerate once they’re at room temperature and they’ll keep for about three weeks.
Use them to garnish a Gibson, which is simply a Martini garnished with the onion instead of an olive, or just fish them out with a fork at midnight. Your secret is safe with me.