Pearl Onion Pickle Recipe

Pearl onions are a cocktail classic. The unique flavors in this recipe will update any drink, and are good enough to eat as a snack!

| July/August 2019

Photo by Getty Images/olgakr

I have a vague childhood memory of popping jarred cocktail onions into my mouth faster than my adult family members could put them into their drinks — olives and miniature gherkins too. I’m certain your inner child will want to devour this updated version with maple and spices just as quickly.


  • 1 pound pearl onions (about 4 cups)
  • Maple Brine recipe (below)
  • 2 teaspoons Relish Spice Mix (below)
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes


  1. Blanch the pearl onions in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the skins pop off easily. Peel; set aside.
  2. Combine the brine, spice mix, and chili flakes in a medium-sized stainless steel pot and bring to a simmer. Add the onions, and simmer for 1 minute.
  3. Spoon the onions into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Using a canning funnel, fill the jars with brine, and then remove any air bubbles. Wipe the jar rims, and apply the lids and rings. Process in a water bath canner or steam canner for 15 minutes. Cool and check jars for lid seal.

Yields 2 pints.

Maple Brine Recipe

Brines have an optimal balance of acids to keep preserved pickles safe while also preventing the sourness from overpowering the fresh produce and seasonings. Use a vinegar of at least 5 percent acidity. If you like a stronger tang, replace up to 1/2 cup of the water with more vinegar. If you prefer less of a bite to your pickle, you can safely add a sweetener; start with 1 to 2 tablespoons to take the edge off. To prepare this brine, simply bring the ingredients to a simmer before use. It makes enough brine for one quart jar or two pint jars.

Replace up to 1/2 cup of the water with apple cider, beer, or hard cider, if preferred. If you’d like to add some rum, whiskey, or bourbon, substitute no more than 1/4 cup of the water with alcohol.

  • 1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Basic pickle spice, black peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon stick, cloves, coriander, fresh or dried ginger, juniper, marjoram, mustard seeds, nutmeg, relish spice, sage, star anise, sweet and smoked paprika, tarragon, and/or thyme, to taste

Relish Spice Mix

Freshly made spice blends allow you to experience the way each individual spice mingles with the rest to create a particular flavor. Because pickling means you’re trapping produce in jars long-term to absorb brine, you should use the best spices and herbs available. This recipe yields about 1 cup. Simply combine all the spices in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid.

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