Let’s say that you’ve never pickled before. Or maybe you have? Either way, you’ve probably had pickled red onion. On some burger or taco or whatever. And maybe you thought (if so, very reasonable): “man… this red onion thing… why is it so FRICKIN’ good?!”.
Let me tell it to you straight. It’s sugar. It’s insane amounts of sugar.
There are different ways of pickling though and not all of them are distilled vinegar/sugar based, but this particular pickling is done by letting something rest in a solution of distilled vinegar (also called spirit vinegar or white vinegar), sugar and water, to which you add flavoring agents, for example bay leaves, pepper corns or chili. The distilled vinegar comes in different concentrations. Make sure you get the 12% one (alternatively dilute a stronger one with water).
The most commonly used mixture for pickling in Sweden is called “1-2-3-solution” which is a handy name, as it’s both… a name, AND a description. 1-2-3 denotes the proportions of distilled vinegar, sugar and water (in deciliters). Thus, if you want to make say about four deciliters of 1-2-3-solution, you’ll need one deciliter of distilled vinegar (100 grams), two… yes TWO deciliters, which is around 160 grams, of sugar. And three deciliters (300 grams) of water. Every time I make this I think: “wait what? Two deciliters of sugar, I must have the one and two confused…. two?!”. So there you have it. It was sugar all along. Which makes sense, because sugar is great! I mean… not always and it’s for sure not good to eat too much of it. But these people who’re like “sugar doesn’t belong in food, it’s got no nutrients! Blah, blah…” and whatever? Loosen up. Sometimes, sugar is just what your dish needs. It’s a spice and in my humble opinion it doesn’t have to contribute anything but enjoyment.
You CAN use less sugar of course. Then it’s… less sweet. And more vinegary.
Pickled red onions. Real easy to make. Keeps for weeks (it doesn’t really go bad, but it’s best the first couple of days). And it’s so pretty!