Haven't made them for years, think I got into the "they are cheap and plentiful in the supermarkets" mentality. Mind you they don't taste as good as home made ones. So I have brushed that thought out of my mind and had a go at making some of my own. Fresh pickling onions are in season now and were readily available loose in my local supermarket too.
If you do decide to make your own don't be led down a path of buying the vinegar ready spiced from a shop or supermarket. The joy comes from making your own spiced vinegar and you can buy the spices (dried chilis, mace, peppercorns, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and bay leaves) ready mixed as 'pickling spice' and packed in sachets or packets ready to go, you don't have to go to the trouble of buying all the individual spices and blending them. Its far cheaper this way too.
Can't you just imagine opening a jar of these tangy, sweet, spicy, crunchy beauties over Christmas, with cold meats, cheeses and the like and eating the whole jar? I think they look amazing, even if I say so myself!
4 lb pickling onions
2 large bottles malt vinegar (use half sherry or cider and half malt vinegars if you prefer)
1 pkt Schwartz pickling spices
1. Start two days before by soaking the pickling onions in plenty of cold water and 2 tbsp salt. On day two top and tail and peel the onions and given them a good rinse under the cold water tap, allow them to dry.
2. Sterilise the jars and lids you are going to use in readiness.
3. Put the two bottles of malt vinegar into a saucepan and add the sugar and (I used) one packet of the pickled spices mixture. Bring this to the boil and then allow to cool.
4. Pack the onions into the jars, you have to squish them down as they try to pop up through the vinegar! Fill with the spiced vinegar mixture, use a jug full of the vinegar to fill the jars. You can sieve the vinegar to remove the spices if you prefer but I like mine with the spices still in.
5. Label the jars and leave for at about 4 weeks before opening and enjoying with cheese, cold meats, hot pots, sandwiches etc.
If you like your pickles to be really fiery and hot, then add a generous pinch or more of dried chilli flakes to some (or all) of the jars.