Cipolline are an Italian pearl onion that you will find all over Abruzzo on the cusp of autumn in the markets or greengrocers. These cute button onions have enviable flat bottoms, a creamy texture and the sweetest of flavours that make them ideal for pickling in vinegar which here is simply called ‘cipolline sotto aceto’.
A while ago in Castel del Monte’s Locanda del Streghe, I tried their caramelised spicy onion relish and thought wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could create something similar in taste, with a warming spicy kick but leaving the onions whole. Because these pickled onions are gently roasted before you add the vinegar, it helps remove excess water and counters the use of an unhealthy soak in a high salt brine solution that pickled onions normally call for. Serve as an antipasti with your favourite charcuterie or some classic mature Abruzzo cheeses.
550g cipolline/Italian button onions
400 ml balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
4 cherry chillies depending on taste
10 fresh basil leaves torn
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
Plunge the baby onions into a pan of boiling water for 1.5 minutes, before draining and running under cold water.
Rub off skins and trim away any flabby roots and shoots.
Put into a roasting tray and dribble with oil, sprinkle the brown sugar black peppercorns and quartered chillies and shredded basil leaves into the oiled mixture.
Add into a pre-heated oven (180°C/350°F) for 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of your onions), turning frequently, you will literally smell and be drooling when they are ready.
Warm the balsamic vinegar & bay leaf for 5 minutes on a low heat, remove the bay leaf and remove from heat.
Remove onions & their spice mixture from the oven and spoon into warm sterilised jam jars, pour over the balsamic vinegar making sure they are completely covered and add lids.
Good to eat after 1 month maturing.