Sunday, November 7, 2010

Canning Disaster! Not botulism disaster, but a disaster none-the-less.

The post formerly known as: Pickled Pearl Onions

My grandmother used to make the most delicious pickled pearl onions.  I’ve never had anything else like them.  I have what I thought was the recipe but after speaking to my aunts and my father I wasn’t sure.  One Aunt has a recipe that involves soaking the onions in a Crock for six (SIX!) whole days. She remembers the crock breaking though and not being replaced and we ate these for years. 

After finding the perfect onions at an Italian grocer on the Danforth, I decided to try it. I thought long and hard on how to approach making these.  The pressure was high.  My dad mentioned the disappointment of biting into bitter commercially prepared pickles while my aunt talked of other people’s versions being sickly sweet.  My mother is sure that the 24 hour soak can’t be right as my grandmother was way too modern for such an old fashioned method.

So, I went out on a limb and guessed that she kept the flavouring of the original recipe but moved on to the more modern method, which only involves a 24 hour soak.  I split the difference and did a fridge soak for 48 hours.

After finalizing my approach and making all the necessary conversions, I made the brine, peeled a gazillion tiny onions, carefully cut off their ends with scissors, soaked them, pickled them up, and processed them in a hot water bath for 30 (THIRTY!) minutes, photo documenting every step.  

Today was the day, I opened a jar, only to find the bitter taste of absolute failure. 

This is how bad they are.  They are simply the worst things I’ve ever tasted. And certainly not my grandmother’s famous onions that went so well with roast beef.

So please, if you have a recipe for pickled onions, please share.  You can post it in the comments or link to your own blog.  If I try your recipe, I’ll even send you a jar. 

In the meantime, enjoy this photo essay on how to make really labour intensive and expensive compost.  Let me note, that in the case of improperly canned preserves, never compost the evidence, throw it right into the trash.  These particular jars were canned perfectly, they’re safe to eat, but you really couldn’t pay me to.

Oh, and Jen and Andy, you’ll want to throw that jar out.  Shana, you too.


  1. Oh...I feel for you and all your hard work. :-( Your documentary pictures are lovely...if that's any compensation. I love pickled onions too. My grandma used to make them, but her recipes were all in her head, nothing was ever written down. I wish they had been though...she made the best homemade things...bread was her speciality.

    If you ever do find a "keeper" of a it!!

  2. That's so sad! But you photographed the tragedy beautifully.

  3. I love your photos and Fiestaware!
    I'm following from the Etsy forum. I would love it if you followed back. : )


  4. Sorry to hear about the pickled onions...but your photos are fabulous. I know my grandmother made these onions....she never used a recipe though. You know...a handful of this a pinch of that....etc.
    Found your post on Etsy forum. I would like to follow your blog. Very nice.

  5. I'm sure that either of these recipes would work. Brine is brine and pickling is pickling I would think.. You can make either Brine and try just boiling for a few minutes (5 maybe?) to seal..

    Babci's Dill Pickles

    6 pints water
    1 pint vinegar
    7 full tablespoons salt
    boil for brine

    in each jar put
    2 heads dill
    clove of garlic
    pinch of pickling spices

    pack jars, add brine, boil jars until cucumbers change colour or are slightly yellowed (about 5 minutes)

    Pickled Beets

    2 cups cider vinegar
    1 cup water
    2 tsp salt
    ½ tsp pepper
    boil for brine

    boil beets for 15-20 minutes and then place directly in cold water.
    Skin beets
    slice them and put them in jars
    add to each jar cloves, cinnamon and allspice
    add brine
    boil jars for 15 minutes

    or there's this website..

    My guess is your brine recipe needs a switch up.
    What MIGHT be fun to try (and look weird) would be to use a red wine vinegar... now THAT would be excellent with beef..
    Of course the best thing to do would be to hunt down your grandmothers recipes, try them all, and label them so you know which one is right.

  6. So tragic! I'm so sad for you.

  7. Oh bummer. Very sad. I think we have all been there. Last year I turned fully half of the garlic harvest that my hubby had grown into a garlic paste that was so bland it didn't even make a decent piece of garlic bread. So disappointing when that kind of thing happens.

  8. I so appreciate your posting a failure, not just successes, since we can all relate. But they looked beautiful!

  9. You should get an award just for peeling all those little F*****g onions
    I go through it when I have made mustard pickles and it is the worst part
    I would not be surprised if your granny did soak them for 6 days in brine. When I do the mustard pickle they (after cooked) go into the crock to sit covered of course for 2 months + +before they go in jars and in the fridge
    Note to all those potters out there .. MAKE SOME CROCKS .. AND LIDS