Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sweet, hot, pickled, beer-battered bliss.

(L) Sweet, habanero pickled onions. (R) Fried, sweet, habanero pickled onions. © Ryan Schierling
Ultimately, this all started on a clearance table at our local grocer with a Texas brand of hot, sweet, pickled onions being blown out at 50-cents a jar. Regularly $5.99 each, we bought four, and were surprised at the simplicity of the sweet, spicy, clean and crisp flavors. They worked on all kinds of sandwiches, were divine in deviled eggs, great grilled, fabulous on top of steak, and they shined in salads. We were a bit distressed that this product wasn't popular enough for the store to keep around and we were afraid we'd never see it again. It's not the first time this has happened with something we really liked (but found out about a little late), so we figured we'd better reverse-imagineer it. 

There were six ingredients – onions, vinegar, sugar, habanero peppers, salt and citric acid. Based on percentages of sodium, carbohydrates, sugar and vitamin C on the label, we were able to approximate salt, sugar and citric acid components per serving, and per jar. Taste-testing got us pretty spot on with the pickling liquid, though we weren't sure if the onions were originally white, yellow or sweet, so we went with white based on what we had on hand. Of course we didn't hold back on the habanero, because we roll caliente, and they were goooood

We tried them quick-pickled, then left those in the fridge for a two-week pickle to see how to texture and flavors would change. Later, we did them properly canned in a hot water bath for longer-term storage. The longer the jars sit, the more the flavors and the heat intensify.

But I couldn't leave well enough alone. I kept thinking about deep-fried pickled things, and how these onions might taste if we beer-battered them using a spicy pilsner and took them to the hot oil-filled cast iron. The result was surprising, but not terribly unexpected – they were ridiculously good. 

Sauceless, these are amazing onion rings. They are crispy, tangy, spicy, sweet and salty without ever seeing a swipe of Ranch or buttermilk dressing, or ketchup/catsup, honey mustard or whatever other crazy things you dip your onion rings in. We made a two-pepper ketchup just in case, and it paired perfectly with the hot little ringlets.

Sweet habanero pickled onions

5 small baseball-sized onions, sliced into rings
3 1/3 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups white sugar
5 habanero peppers, minced (about 4-5 teaspoons)
3 teaspoons kosher salt
3 pinches citric acid*

Sterilize five wide-mouth pint jars, rings and lids in a boiling water bath. Set on a clean dish towel to dry. Peel and slice the onions in 1/4" to 1/2" rings. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, add vinegar, sugar, salt and citric acid. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Put 1 teaspoon of minced habanero peppers into each jar. Begin packing the onion rings into the jars, leaving at least a 1/2" of space at the top. If some of the rings are too large, set them aside. Carefully ladle the hot vinegar mixture into the jars, pushing the onions down a bit to release air bubbles. Leave 1/2" of space between the liquid and the lid. Cap the jars. From here, you can put them in the refrigerator for a couple weeks. This two-week pickle will give you slightly-softened onions with a great sweet and spicy finish; this method was our favorite for making onion rings. If you like, you can quick-pickle them, leaving them in the refrigerator for a few hours and then drain them for battering and frying; this method gives you more of a crisp onion, with decidedly more raw "onion" flavor but less sweet and hot. 

If you'd like to put these jars up, you can hot water bath them – boil and process for 25 minutes. This results in a softer onion, and the pickling liquid takes on a light orange hue from the habanero peppers. These may still be used for battered and fried onion rings, but they are softer and even better suited for sandwiches, steaks, salads, bread and butter... anything you would normally like with an onion condiment or relish.

Any onion slices that are too large to pack into wide-mouth pint jars, dice, and pack the same as the rest of the jars. You should have just enough pickling liquid left. If not, add a bit more vinegar and a touch of water. The resulting jar will yield a great addition to tacos, tuna salad sandwiches, fruit relishes... go wild. 

Makes 5 pints.

*Citric acid is probably not necessary, but for some reason we had it on hand. If you don't have it, don't worry about it.  

Spicy beer batter

1 12-ounce spicy beer (we used local Dripping Springs brewer Twisted X Brewing Company Fuego jalapeño pilsner, a "classic Pils with a burro kick.")
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging

Whisk batter ingredients together until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to begin making onion rings. 

In a medium-sized cast iron skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable or peanut oil over medium-high heat until it is 375 degrees F. Drain one pint jar of pickled onions well, separate rings and dredge in all-purpose flour. Dip in batter and carefully drop into hot oil until golden, flipping once. These go pretty quickly since they're small rings, about 45 seconds or so. Let oil come back to temperature after each batch before adding more onions. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce, or...

Two-pepper ketchup

1/2 cup ketchup/catsup/whatever
1 hot red cherry pepper (such as Mezzetta brand)
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

In a small food processor, add all ingredients and pulse until combined. If you don't want to break out the queez, mince the cherry pepper and whisk everything together. 

Serves, uhm... one, if you're as enamored with these as we are. They disappear quickly.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome comments. Thanks for your patience as we moderate to avoid spam and other internet foolishness.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...