Picnic Series – Pickled Red Onions


Labor Day Weekend is usually the last hooray for summer. We have big backyard barbecue’s and pull out all the stops to enjoy one last day of picnic-y madness.

Hamburgers, brats and hot dogs are three of the five ‘most grilled foods’ on Labor Day.  And, with that in mind we thought we would use today’s post to help you prepare for this weekend’s cookout. To do that, we are going to focus on the one aspect that often gets little attention at the cookout… condiments. When deciding what to have everyone bring, we usually assign condiments to one of the non-cooks. (along with the chips, beer and pre-made veggie platter – right?)

After today’s post, we’re pretty sure the ketchup, mustard and mayo may still be left in the chips and beer column, but the relish won’t be. In fact, you likely won’t be using relish in the near future!  File this post along with the others in our Picnic Series when you just aren’t sure what to bring to the party.

It might seem strange to introduce the French at this point in the discussion, but the truth is, they belong here. Most will agree that were it not for classical French cuisine and the fine culinary learning establishment that is Le Cordon Bleu, haute cuisine would not be what it is today. Interestingly enough the French even have something to offer that elevates simple picnic fare – pickled red onions.

Ok, it may not sound like much and you probably didn’t jump up out of your seat to see if you had any red onions in the pantry. However, after whipping up a batch using the recipe below, we doubt your fridge will ever be missing a jar of these again.  Why?  Because, they go with so many different foods and dishes.  They are equally tasty with country patê (or any charcuterie for that matter) as they are on fish tacos, or with Moo Shu Pork and Mandarin pancakes, but we digress…

As far as your next barbecue goes, the truth is they turn hamburgers and brats into something almost symphonic! Pickled red onions bring balance to the palate party, and that’s the little secret the French never shared. That’s partly because red onions are four times more expensive in France than white or yellow onions.  (that’s not true here in the U.S. – red, white and sweet yellow onions are usually within pennies a pound of each other)

It’s a shame they haven’t had more exposure really, because pickled red onions belong right up there with homemade, fresh ground mustard. A sandwich (of any kind) just isn’t a sandwich without either of them.

The best news of all is that you have plenty of time to make a batch of these before the weekend, and we’re certain you’ll be the talk of the party simply because you gave some forethought to the lowly condiments!


Picnic Series – Pickled Red Onions
Recipe type: Condiment
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 30

Simple, sweet and spicy pickled red onions

  1. Slice onions into strips longitudinally (lengthwise from top of onion to bottom – rather than rings).
  2. Set onions aside.
  3. Combine vinegar, sugar, cloves and star anise in pot bring to boil and heat until sugar dissolves.
  4. Stir in sliced onion and let simmer for 30-60 seconds then remove from heat.
  5. Let onions cool then split onions and juice between two one-quart canning jars with rings & flats and refrigerate.
  6. Pickled onions will keep for at least 4-6 weeks.

Plain raw organic cane sugar and crushed red pepper ¼ tsp. crushed red chile flakes can be substituted for Green Chile sugar – though not as tasty.