Back in the day, I used to make pickles, lots of pickles of every sort. One fall I made many pints of pickled onions, and thought it would be a good idea to top each jar with a small chili. Unfortunately I used Bird’s Eye Chilies. There they sat, for several months, infusing my cheerful little onions with their heat.
We opened a jar one night, to sample these wonderful treats, so carefully preserved earlier in the fall. One bite, and our eyes were streaming, and our throats were on fire. So much work to create an inedible pickle! Fortunately for us, we had a friend who’d grown up in Indonesia eating foods far spicier than our palates are used to, and she happily tucked into them. She graciously accepted the remaining pints. I’ve never made pickled onions since.
However, I do enjoy the sweet & sour of pickled onions, and this recipe is a worthy substitute. I love the colour of shallots, from their raw bright purple to their delicate pink when cooked. Their flavour is sweet and oniony, and when cooked this way, makes an excellent addition to a buffet dinner, or as a garnish on a plated meal, and there’s no unintentional heat.
2 c dry sherry
⅓ c sugar
⅓ c red wine vinegar
¼ t salt
2 large bay leaves
Peel and trim the shallots: large ones may be halved – leaving some of their root bases intact will help them hold together while cooking.
Cut a round of parchment to fit neatly inside the medium sized saucepan you will be using.
Bring to a simmer.
Continue cooking for 40 minutes, until the shallots are softened. They will be translucent, and tinged with the colour of sherry.
Using a slotted spoon, move the shallots from the liquid, to a bowl. Reserve.
Cook the sherry mixture, uncovered, over medium heat for about 15 minutes to reduce it somewhat.
Return the shallots to the reduced liquid, to warm through.
Tip: Do ahead, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Return to a saucepan and reheat gently over low heat.