Mar 9, 2012

Pickled Onions (still on my mind...)


Well, some days the stars just don't align even with the best of intentions and preparation. Last day at the firehouse was one such instance. I had to hustle to prep dinner immediately after breakfast because we had a full day of training ahead of us. So I had the intention of making some slow cooked, pulled pork sliders with a mustard barbecue sauce, pickled onions, dill coleslaw and corn on the cob. Now, for those that don't know, I am relatively new to the station that I am currently at, so I haven't had a chance to use all the kitchen tools. So I dusted off the station Crock Pot and after sautéing the pork, threw it in and set the pot on low for 6 hours. Can you see where this is going? Yes, I know you can...

After a tough day of training we were all very hungry, (I can always tell when I am too hungry when even fast food looks good and I don't eat fast food). So I headed up to the kitchen to get everything on the table before the trucks even finished backing into the bay . I pulled out the fixings from the fridge, tossed out the plates then turned my attention to the pork and found to my surprise and shock that it was only partially cooked (partially cooked is being kind, it was rare). So no slow-cooked, succulent, shredded pork for tonight (sigh). So I called for "all hands on deck" and implemented Plan B. (BTW, Plan B is doing whatever it takes! I live by that motto when on the fire ground, in fact I even have it on a coin on my helmet...). With my crew in the kitchen backing me up, I quickly sliced up 7 pounds of Boston Butt and sautéed it in a pan then tossed it with the barbecue sauce and in less then 15 minutes, everything was on the table. Not at all what I had intended but life, like any working fire, teaches that you have to roll with the punches. 

All that story leads me to the biggest surprise of the night and that was that the pickled onions were a hit. Not a one at the table had ever had pickled onions and they were shocked when I informed them that pickling doesn't require months but as little as 10-15 minutes. A few notes: you are more than welcome to blanch the onions in some boiling water for about 2 minutes to subtle their flavor (not something I'd choose but it's an option). You can also heat the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan to a boil then reduce to a simmer for about 5 minutes then add the rest of the fuel and allow it to cool (it's a fun experiment to prepare both and taste their differences to see how heat changes ingredients). Also, these onions pickled for about 5-6 hours while we were sweating the day away. But I felt they had the right about of tang and very subtle spiciness from the jalapeño. Longer pickling would intensify the heat.

Fuel

Red Onion (quartered and thinly sliced)
Jalapeño (½ of it then minced)
Garlic (2 cloves minced)
Apple Cider Vinegar (¼ Cup)
Peppercorns (8-10 whole)
Sugar (1 Tbs.)
Salt (¼ tsp.)

Tools

Sealable Plastic Container

Tactics

Place all fuel in the container and add enough water to cover the onions.  Place the lid on the container and shake it to mix or until the sugar and salt are dissolved.  Place in a refrigerator for no less then 10-15 minutes. Should be good for a month. Note that the longer it is pickled the more intense the flavor and spiciness.  Enjoy cause it’s good.

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