1. Add 1 kg (2 lb) small pickling onions to a large pan of boiling water and let them sit for ten minutes.
2. Drain them, refresh them, and drain again.
3. Peel them and put them into a large bowl.
4. Dissolve 125 g (4 oz) salt in 1 litre (2 pt) water and pour the solution over the onions.
5. Weight them down with a large plate and leave them to soften for two days; then rinse them and leave them to drain.
6. Dissolve 75 g (3 oz) sugar in the pickling vinegar. Allow it to cool.
7. Pack the onions in sterilised jars with enough vinegar to cover them.
8. Seal the jars immediately, and store them for at least a week.
to make homemade spicing vinegar
1. Add to 1 litre of vinegar, 5 - 10g of each of the following whole spices: cloves, allspice, cinnamon, white peppercorns, ginger. The smaller quantity will be enough for a mild pickle but for strongly flavoured ones such as onion, the full quantity may be used.
2. Put the spices in a folded cloth and beat them lightly with a rolling-pin to release their flavour.
3. Put the bruised spices into the vinegar and seal the bottle.
4. It may be more convenient to add a double or treble quantity of spices and dilute later with more vinegar, but label the container accordingly if this is done.
5. If time allows, leave the spices in the well-sealed bottle of vinegar for 2 months, shaking daily for the first month.
6. Strain out the spices carefully and re-bottle the vinegar.
to make quick spicing vinegar
1. Place the spices and vinegar in a heatproof bowl and cover with a plate.
2. Stand the bowl in a saucepan of cold water, bring the water gently to the boil and draw the pan off the heat.
3. Leave for 2 hours, taking care not to move the plate or flavour will be lost.
4. Strain the vinegar and, if not required immediately, return to the bottle and seal.