Cebollas Encurtidas (Pickled Onions)
This recipe has its origins in Ecuador: It’s a vinegar-pickled onion. In Ecuador, it calls for cebolla paiteña, a smaller and spicier onion than those we get in the United States. “Our fermented adaptation is delicious,” says author Kirsten Shockey.
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- Fermentation vessel: 1 quart or larger jar
- 3 red onions, sliced
- Unrefined sea salt
- Juice of 3 limes
- 1 tablespoon lime zest (optional)
- With a stainless-steel knife, trim onions by making shallow, cone-shaped cuts on both ends. Peel away the papery outer layers of skin and any damaged or discolored layers. With the same knife or a mandoline, thinly slice onions crosswise to make rings. Transfer to a large bowl, and sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of the salt, working it in with your hands. Taste, and sprinkle in more salt as needed to achieve a salty flavor that’s not overwhelming. Add lime juice and optional zest to increase flavor.
- At this point there is brine building at the bottom. Press your onions into a jar or crock. More brine will release at this stage, and you should see brine above the onions. Top the ferment with a quart-sized ziptop bag. Press the plastic down onto the top of the ferment, and then fill it with water and seal; this will act as both follower and weight.
- Set aside on a baking sheet to ferment, somewhere out of direct sunlight, and cool for 7 to 14 days. Check daily to make sure onions are submerged, pressing down as needed to bring the brine to the surface. You may see scum on top; it’s generally harmless, but if you see mold, scoop it out.
- You can start to test the ferment on day 7. It’s ready when the onions are translucent, have lost their sharp bite and are pickle-y tasting without the strong acidity of vinegar.
- Store in jars, leaving as little headroom as possible, and tamping the onions down under the brine. Tighten the lids; then store in the fridge. This ferment will keep, refrigerated, for 18 months.
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