These onions have the perfect herbal tones to complement a great gin martini or a Bloody Mary. They’re also an essential ingredient in that classic London pub meal, the ploughman’s lunch, or at a French bistro alongside a slice of a pâté grandmère. The only question here is how obsessive you feel—i.e., how much fancy knife work you’re up for. I will admit to a love of carving little onions from the early stalks that appear in June. There is also an elusive perfectly shaped and sized onion called a silverskin. They are hard to find, but they are my favorite. Truly, any small onion is delicious here: cipollini, little early red or white onions, even shallots.
I can spend an inordinate amount of time carefully trimming the root ends of all of the members of the alium family, keeping the onion intact, then carefully peeling away any papery outside skin. Use sharp scissors to trim the root and top right above the bulb. Or trim the root and leave a 2- or 3-inch stalk. The former is best in a cocktail, the latter on a luncheon plate.
1. Trim the root ends and peel away any dry papery skin from the onions. Trim the stalks to 2 to 3 inches, or slice away the entire stalks, leaving only the bulbs. Pack the onions tightly into the jar(s). Add 1 tablespoon of the salt to each jar (or add 2 tablespoons salt to the pint jar), fill with cool water, and cover. Shake or agitate to distribute the salt. Leave the jars on the counter overnight.
2. The next day, drain the onions and rinse well under cool water. In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, water, the remaining 1 tablespoon salt, the sugar, maple syrup, and spices to a simmer, stirring until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the ice cubes, and stir until the brine is cool.
3. Place the onions back in the jar(s). Divide the lemon peel and bay leaves between the jars (or put them all in the pint jar). Pour the brine over the onions, place the lid on the jar(s), and brine the onions on the counter overnight.
4. The next day, refrigerate the onions. They will be ready to eat in 2 to 3 weeks and will keep for at least 3 months in the refrigerator.
[More: Cathy Barrow on pickling]
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Reprinted from Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving by Cathy Barrow. Copyright (c) 2014 by Cathy Barrow. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.