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08/13/2012

~ Mel's Ultimate Sandwich Topper: Pickled Onions ~

PICT0011I love onions.  Period.  Rare is the day when I am not cooking with, eating or serving some type of onion. When I go to a restaurant, if I am ordering a salad or a sandwich, I request that "extra onion" be added to my selection.  Because of what I do on a day-to-day basis, rare is the day when I am not faced with some sort of leftover, cooked protein in my refrigerator (beef, chicken, duck, fish, lamb, pork, seafood etc.).  Even when I don't have a fantastic loaf of fresh bread on hand, I make it a point to have pita.  During the coarse of the day, if I find myself starving, a bit of lettuce, a slice of tomato, onion and meat, quickly stuffed into a pita pocket, is a relatively low calorie way to stave off hunger until dinner time!

Pickled Onions are as Easy as "A, B, C"!

PICT0007When it comes time to choose a condiment for my sandwich, if I have pickled onions in my refrigerator, mayonnaise and salad dressings don't stand a chance!

Plus, pickled onions couldn't be easier to make.  I like to use red onions, because they turn a pretty pink color, but, when Vidalia onions are in season, I don't hesitate to pickle them either.  All you need to make basic pickled onions are: thinly sliced onions, any type of vinegar and sugar.  After that, how you spice them is up to you.  The first time I ate pickled onions was in a taco shop in Tempe Arizona, and, they were spiced with jalapenos, cumin and coriander seed.  The second time I ate pickled onions was in a deli out on Long Island, and they were spiced with garlic, mustard seed and peppercorns.  I call mine "A, B, C" onions, because I like allspice, bay leaf and cloves!

August is National Sandwich Month!

PICT0003While perusing Serious Eats yesterday (www.seriouseats.com) I was reminded that August is National Sandwich Month.  National Sandwich Day is November 3rd, and, if you find it odd that Sandwich Day is not celebrated during Sandwich Month, there is a reason for this: National Sandwich Day is celebrated on the birthday of the supposed inventor of the sandwich, John Montague (the 4th Earl of Sandwich who was born November 3, 1718). National Sandwich Month was chosen by the sandwich industry because Americans, who are preoccupied with holiday foods (not sandwiches) in November, are, in August, looking for new sandwich ideas for end-of-summer picnics, the Labor day holiday, and, back to school lunches!

392px-John_Montagu,_4th_Earl_of_SandwichA bit about the 4th Earl of Sandwich:  John Montague, a British statesman during the latter 1700's was a notorious gambler.  It is said that he ordered his food served between two slices of bread so he would not have to leave the gaming table to eat supper.  The truth is, Montague did not invent the sandwich.  He frequently traveled to regions in and around the Eastern Mediterranean, where the Greeks introduced him to pita bread stuffed or topped with meats, vegetables and cheeses. Montague's imitation of this form of eating led to the English naming bread-enclosed convenience food "sandwiches", and, anyone who has ever participated in a late-night drinking party is forever grateful!

PICT0001For the pickled red onions:

1  pound peeled and thinly sliced red onion, preferably into rings

3  cups rice wine vinegar

1 1/2  cups sugar

12  whole allspice

4  whole bay leaves

12  whole cloves

PICT0008~ Step 1. Slice the onions into thin rings, somewhere between 1/8"-1/4" thick.  Tip:  I like rings because they're easier to remove from the jar with a fork!

PICT0003I have a niftly little gadget called The Feemster's Famous Vegetable Slicer.  I bought two of these for $5.00 a piece about 20 years ago and I sliced all of these onions in less than 5 minutes.  I have all sorts of fancy mandolins and super-sharp knives, but I adore my little blue-bladed Feemsters!

I am pleased to report they are reasonably priced and available on-line at Amazon.com!

PICT0005~ Step 2.  Divide and lightly pack the onions into 2, 1-quart, heatproof jars.  I'm using jars that I saved from store-bought dill pickles!

Note:  You can use any size jars you want, but, make sure you have a headspace of about 1/2" at the top of the jar after the onions have been packed into it.

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~ Step 3.  In a 4-quart saucepan, stir together the vinegar and sugar. Add the spices.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Adjust heat to a simmer and continue to cook for 3 minutes.  

 

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~ Step 4.  Ladle the hot vinegar mixture into the jars.  In the tall jars I am using, all of my brine fits perfectly.  Depending upon your jars, you might have a bit of brine leftover, or, actually need a bit more liquid to cover the top of your onions.  If you need a bit more liquid, just add some boiling water.

At this point, I like to take the time to add the allspice, bay leaves and cloves to the jars.  As the onions marinate, they just continue to add great flavor to the mixture!

PICT0016Step 5.  Set aside, uncovered, until cooled to room temperature, about 2 hours.  Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, several hours to overnight (overnight is best).  Note:  Pickled onions will keep in the refrigerator for as long as they last, however, I find them at their best if consumed within two weeks... which is no problem in Melanie's kitchen!

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Mel's Ultimate Sandwich Topper:  Pickled Onions:  Recipe yields 2 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 2, tall, 1-quart heatproof jars w/lids; 4-quart saucepan; large spoon; ladle

6a0120a8551282970b015391e844a0970b-800wiCook's Note:  For another one of my favorite pickled side-dishes, you can find my recipe for ~ Pretty in Pink:  Pennsylvania Dutch Pickled Eggs ~ in Categories 1, 4 or 12!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

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