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52 Weeks of Bad A** Bacteria – Week 12 – Pickled (Lacto Fermented) Onions

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Pickled (Lacto Fermented) Onions Recipe Follow Me on Pinterest

UPDATE 7/26/12: I no longer use whey as a starter for my ferments (learn why here). I also no longer use Mason jars for my ferments (learn why here). I use Fidos and Pickl-Its exclusively and the improvement in the taste and texture of my ferments is unbelievable! I encourage everyone to take a look at the information regarding Mason jar ferments and come to a decision that best fits their family. I will be releasing updated versions of these recipes soon, as it applies to the Fido and Pickl-It jars.

Hi All! I hope you have had a great weekend and are well rested for the upcoming week! Things have been insanely hectic around here, so I’ve just barely been keeping my head above water. I think things will start slowing down in the next few weeks, but for right now, I’m keeping the ferments simple and quick, so I apologize for not having anything new and earth shattering to share!

The Smelly, Yet Awesome, Onion

Simple and quick are exactly the words that can be used to describe this week’s ferment — pickled (lacto-fermented) onions. I don’t really think that I’ve made a ferment that is easier than this. Onions, salt, filtered water, and some brine from your fermented garlic (and/or whey if you’re using it).

Onions are a powerhouse of nutrition. They are similar to garlic in the nutrients that they provide. They are a great source of flavoniods, which are antioxidants that are sometimes referred to as Vitamin P. They are great immune boosters and have many medicinal properties. Because of the flavonoids, onions, as well as garlic, have long been known for their benefits to the cardiovascular system. Citrus fruits, berries, and parsley are other great sources of flavonoids. According to The Worlds’s Healthiest Foods website:

“The flavonoids in onion tend to be more concentrated in the outer layers of the flesh. To maximize your health benefits, peel off as little of the fleshy, edible portion as possible when removing the onion’s outermost paper layer. Even a small amount of “overpeeling” can result in unwanted loss of flavonoids. For example, a red onion can lose about 20% of its quercetin and almost 75% of its anthocyanins if it is “overpeeled.”

Onions also contain large levels of polyphenols. Polyphenols are a certain type of phytonutrient that actually include flavonoids. Onions have the highest polyphenol counts of most veggies, including garlic, leeks, carrots, tomatoes, and red peppers. There are only six vegetables that have been found to have higher counts than onions and those are artichokes, Brussels sprouts, shallots, celery, and broccoli.

The strong smell of onions means that they are rich in are the sulfur-contain compounds, which are important to the cardiovascular system. They help prevent the clotting and clumping of blood platelets. They have also been shown to help cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and even help strengthen the cell membranes of red blood cells. Some studies have shown that onions can even help increase bone density, again due to the sulfur compounds. Other studies have shown that eating onions several times a week can help lower your risk of some forms of cancer. That’s good news for people like me who eat onions pretty much every day. :)

Pickled onions are a great addition to all sorts of things. They taste great on burgers and hot dogs, as well as mixed into salads and salad dressings. If you can eat them raw, that will give you the best probiotic boost, but you can also use these to add rich onion flavor to soups, stews, and other heated dishes. I added some brine from one of my batches of pickled garlic, so that added enhanced the flavor and gave the ferment a little kick start. Red onions are going to have the highest levels of flavanoids, but I couldn’t find any for this batch, so I used Vidalia onions. I love Vidalias because they have such a sweetness to them that is only enhanced by the fermenting process.

Sources: “Onions“, The World’s Healthiest Foods.

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About Jessica Espinoza

Jessica is a real food nut, coconut everything enthusiast, avid reader and researcher, blossoming yogi, and animal lover. She has had a life-long passion for food and being in the kitchen is where she is the happiest. Jessica started Delicious Obsessions in 2010 as a way to help share her love for food and cooking. Since then, it has grown into a trusted online resource with a vibrant community of people learning to live healthy, happy lives through real food and natural living.

Discussion

29 comments

  1. MMMMMMmmmmmmm I LOVE Love love onions!!! Vidalia’s are my all time favorite too!! I eat onions several times a day (as opposed to per week) so this was good information!!

    reply 

    Sherry M
    Posted 03/26/12

  2. What’s your thoughts on covering the jar with a cloth as opposed to a lid?

    reply 

    Mike Lieberman
    Posted 03/26/12

    • Hey Mike! That would be fine too. The reason that I use a lid with these types of ferments is because I like to shake the jar up once a day or so, to make sure things get submerged in the brine. I don’t know if that’s bad or good when it comes to fermenting, but it’s always worked for me, so that’s what I’ll keep doing :) I only do this with things that are full of brine, like the onions, garlic, Brussels sprouts, etc. Hope that helps! :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 03/26/12

  3. why is the whey or pickled garlic brine optional? Can you use water kefir instead (full of microorganisms) if the onions will be your first fermented batch of food?

    reply 

    David
    Posted 05/02/12

    • David – You know, I’ve never used water kefir as a starter for my ferments, however, I know many people who do and have had great success with it. I list the whey as optional, because not everyone uses whey as a starter for their ferments. The garlic brine is also optional, because not everyone will have any of that. I added some of my garlic brine to the onions as both a starter and a flavor enhancer. You can always add more salt, but I’d say give the water kefir a try. Like I said, I’ve never done it before, but I know people who have. Let me know how it turns out and happy fermenting! :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 05/02/12

  4. This recipe sounds great! I love onions. Could you add a few cucumbers and carrot slices in also, and make sure to have the whey starter? I’m really wanting to try this.

    reply 

    Sue hollandsworth
    Posted 05/24/12

    • Hi Sue – You could add whatever you want to the mix! That’s the great thing about fermentation is how flexible it is! Have fun with it!

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 05/25/12

  5. If you used green onions in place or regular(yellow, red, white) would you still get the same nutritional benefits? Thanks!

    reply 

    Montizzle
    Posted 01/31/13

    • I have never fermented green onions before. All onions have similar benefits, so I imagine you would. I’ve just never done it! If you experiment, swing back by and let me know how it goes! :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 02/01/13

  6. Hi Jessica– I’m at the end of Day 2 of my ferment– There is quite an odor coming from the onions… Is this normal? Will that decrease over the week? Does mold ever form on the water surface? Thanks!

    reply 

    Mark A.
    Posted 03/03/13

    • Hi Mark – Yes, the onions will have a rather pungent smell as they ferment, at least mine did. It shouldn’t be offputting, but it is decidely onion-y. They do mellow out the longer they ferment. I have a batch in my fridge that are about 5 months old and they are not as strong as they were when I first made them. I have never had mold on my onion ferment. As a matter of fact, the only mold I have had was on some ginger shredded carrots that I fermented in a Mason jar years ago. Hope that helps! :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 03/04/13

  7. Hi Jessica– Well, it’s day 7. I’m about to transfer the onions to the fridge– Do you keep them in the same container? Do you save all the liquid? Do you rinse the onions at all (worried that they may be too salty). Do you taste them room temp or wait till they get cold?Thanks for the help!

    reply 

    Mark A.
    Posted 03/08/13

    • Hi Mark – Sorry for the delay in replying. I have been traveling and just got back. Yes, keep them in the same container and save the liquid. You want the brine to completely cover the ferment, and also you don’t want a lot of head space for air to get into the jar. I don’t rinse the onions — that would wash away all of the probiotic goodness! I personally prefer them chilled on salads and sandwiches. The brine is also good in salad dressings. Hope that helps! :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 03/12/13

  8. I just recently started my 1st pickl-it ferment! I chose a mixture of onions & green peppers. I did the ferment w the salt brine. Any suggestions for how long I should leave it in the pickl-it? Also, I would like to transfer the finished product to fido jars so that I can start another ferment. Any idea on the process there? As in once the ferment has completed can I transfer it to the fido & refrigerate?

    reply 

    Fernanda
    Posted 04/13/13

    • Hi Fernanda – You will want to let it ferment until the bubbling stops. That will mean that the active fermentation is over. Also, if you have Pickl-It and Fido jars, all you need to do is switch out the lids. I don’t recommend transferring completed ferments to new jars, as it can destroy some of the good bacteria and potentially contaminate the ferment. I’d just switch the lids and you’re good to go! :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 04/15/13

  9. I don’t recommend adding any sort of starter to salt-brined ferments because the starter can seriously interfere with the population dynamics of the fermentation. Dutch scientists have proven that “back-slopping” sauerkraut (i.e. inoculating a new batch of sauerkraut with the juice from a previous batch) results in a mushier and less flavorful kraut. This is because the starter culture often contains bacteria from later stages of the fermentation cycle and thus prevents the initial stage from completing correctly. The added acidity from the starter liquid also contributes to this affect as the acidity in the brine is supposed to be a by-product of the initial fermentation phase. That phase is bubbly and odorous but it is required to achieve the proper flavor.

    reply 

    Dave
    Posted 04/20/13

    • Hi Dave – I agree with you 100%. There are certain stages of proper fermentation that get skipped when a starter is used. I gave up using starters in my ferments about a year ago, once I did some independent research that showed how the pH and fermentation processes were hindered when adding a starter. I do salt-only ferments and everything turns out great! At some point, I will get all of my recipes updated for salt-only fermenting. Thanks for stopping by! :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 04/20/13

  10. What actually happens when onions ferment? Are sugars being transformed into something else? If so, what?

    reply 

    RogerP
    Posted 06/02/13

    • Hi Roger – Yes, the sugars and carbohydrates are being broken down and used up in the fermentation process. The bacteria are eating the sugars and then producing lactic acid as a byproduct. This is true of any ferment, whether it be water kefir, onions, or cabbage. I love Cultures For Health’s simple explanation: “Fermenting not only preserves food but also enhances the nutrient content. The action of the culture organisms makes the minerals in cultured foods more readily available to the body. During the fermenting process the bacteria also produce B vitamins and enzymes that are beneficial for digestion.” Hope that helps! :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 06/02/13

  11. Hi, I have some potato onions I would love to pickle naturally but I was wondering if I could ferment them whole like cocktail onions. I plan on only fermenting the small ones, maybe up to 1 inch across. Do you think I might need to leave them longer for the ferment to go right through the onion perhaps or ???

    Thanks

    reply 

    Jessie
    Posted 01/23/14

    • Hi Jessie – I think that would work just fine. They may need to go a couple days longer, but I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work. If you do end up doing it, I’d love to hear how it goes. :)

      reply 

      Jessica Espinoza
      Posted 01/26/14

      • Ok, I made thse with the small potato onions on Feb first and I left them on the shelf until today. They’ve been there through severe heatwaves of 40C and down to about 12C too. I checked them a week ago and they were fizzing! I left them and the bubbles have slowed down so I tried one. BEST ONION EVER! I can’t wait until my husband comes home from work to try one. 2 more large jars going in to ferment now. NEVER again will I pickle an onion! These are easier, healthier and tastier. :)

        reply 

        Jessie
        Posted 02/17/14

        • Hi Jessie – Awesome! So happy to hear they turned out well. I find that so many veggies taste better after fermenting. You must try the fermented garlic sometime too. I think it’s my all-time favorite ferment! :)

          reply 

          Jessica Espinoza
          Posted 02/19/14

          • Garlic fermenting now. Stinky stuff but I can’t wait to try it!

            reply 

            Jessie
            Posted 03/04/14

  12. Can’t wait to try this! So…if the fermenting process is what’s supposed to be producing the acidity, would it be a bad idea then, to add a few tablespoons of ACV at the beginning?

    reply 

    cindi
    Posted 07/13/14

    • Hi Cindi – I would not add any ACV into your ferment. Proper fermentation needs to go through a series of steps and adding vinegar would inhibit the proper process by altering the pH of the ferment. Cheers!

      reply 

      Jessica Espinoza
      Posted 07/13/14

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