International Can-It-Forward Day and Onion Pickles from the Ball Blue Book

July 25, 2015(updated on August 30, 2021)

finished pickled onions four jars

This year’s International Can-It-Forward Day is now just a week away! In seven days, I’ll be at the Jarden Home Brands headquarters in Fishers, Indiana with some other fine folks. We’ll be demonstrating recipes and sharing jar tricks on the livestream, along with delightful people from the Ball Canning team.

frozen pearl onions

I’ll have the day’s livestream running right here on the blog on Saturday, so make sure to tune in starting at 11 am eastern time to see all the interesting and useful programming we will have for you. Oh, and for those of you who asked, this is an online-only event. Unlike in years past, there’s no way to participate if you live close by (so sorry!).

pearl onions in colander

Now, for my next recipe from the Ball Blue Book, I bring you a half batch of Onion Pickles from the latest edition. I confess that I employed a cheat with this one. The recipe calls for fresh pearl onions, but I had neither the time to hunt them down nor the desire to spend hours peeling and prepping them.

So instead, I used frozen pearl onions. The produce a finished texture that is somewhat softer than a fresh onion, but not so much that you’d be displeased.

prepared horseradish

One of the reasons that this recipe spoke to me was the inclusion of prepared horseradish in the brine. I very much enjoy the sinus-clearing flavor of horseradish and loved the idea incorporating its zippy heat in a pickle. This is going to be a trick I’ll carry over to future pickles.

jars for pickled onions

These are a sweet pickle and so may not be the cocktail onion that so many of you seek. However, there’s a note in the recipe that mentions that one can omit the sugar and bay leaf in order to turn these into a sour pickle. So with that alteration, home cocktail lovers may well find that these satisfy their mixology needs.

pickled onions tops

I’m including the recipe in its entirety. If you want to make a half batch (okay, so it’s just slightly more than a half batch) with frozen pearl onions, rinse 3 pounds of frozen onions under warm water until defrosted. Skip the salting of the onions, add 2 tablespoons pickling salt to brine and reduce brine ingredients by half.

finished pickled onions tight

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Onion Pickles from the Ball Blue Book


  • 4 quarts pearl onions about 5 pounds
  • 1 cup Ball Salt for Pickling and Preserving
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup mustard seeds
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 quarts vinegar 5% acidity
  • 7 small hot red peppers
  • 7 bay leaves
  • Ball Pickle Crisp optional


  • PREP: Wash hot red peppers under cold running water; drain. Peel onions; measure 4 quarts peeled onions. Put onions in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Pour cold water over onions just to cover. Cover; let stand 12 to 18 hours in refrigerator. Drain onions. Rinse onions under cold running water; drain. Cut a small slit in each hot pepper on two opposite sides.
  • COOK: Combine sugar, mustard seed, horseradish, and vinegar in a large saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer (180 degrees F); simmer 15 minutes.
  • FILL: Pack onions into a hot jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Put 1/2 hot red pepper and 1/2 bay leaf into half-pint or 1 hot red pepper and 1 bay leaf in pint jar. Add 1/16 teaspoon Pickle Crisp to pint jar, if desired. Ladle hot pickling liquid over onions, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Clean jar rim. Center lid on jar and adjust band to fingertip-tight. Place jar on the rack elevated over simmering water (180 degrees F) in boiling-water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.
  • PROCESS: Lower the rack into simmering water. Water must cover jars by 1 inch. Adjust heat to medium-high, cover canner and bring water to a rolling boil. Process half-pint or pint jars 10 minutes. Turn off heat and remove cover. Let jars cool 5 minutes. Remove jars from canner; do not retighten bands if loose. Cool 12 hours. Check seals. Label and store jars.
  • Note: When cutting or seeding hot peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned.

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10 thoughts on "International Can-It-Forward Day and Onion Pickles from the Ball Blue Book"

  • An uninformed question…..if I stopped just before the processing stage would this work as a refrigerator pickle? Its SO HOT here that the idea of the processing is giving me pause, but I would like to try now as opposed to wait til winter….


    1. I’ve not done it, so I don’t know how this particular pickle would behave as a fridge pickle. My guess is that it would be okay, though.

  • The directions for your half-batch version are kind of vague. It would be much clearer if you would also post your half-batch recipe and instructions.

    Are you saying to halve all of the ingredients (from sugar on down), skip step 1 entirely: just add 2 T of pickling salt to the vinegar mixture in step 2, and then just proceed as written?

  • Sorry, I’m a little late to this post. I was wondering if I could just use raw sliced onions for this (and following the salting part)? The flavor sounds awesome and I think I’d get more use out of sliced than the pearls, although the pearls do look cool.

    Probably a silly question, but thought I’d check. I love the horseradish too!

    1. I’ve not done it, so I really don’t know. My instinct says yes, but I’d also find a recipe for pickled sliced onions and see if they line up.

  • My granddaughter brought a dozen pints of pickled and sealed pearl onions from 400’ above sea level to us at over 5300’ above sea level. Most of the jars lost their seals. Are those onions still safe to be eaten?

  • Do I have to have a hot pepper and horseradish in my pickled frozen onions? I don’t like either one.

    1. You do not need to add the hot pepper or the horseradish. Removing those ingredients won’t impact the safety of the finished product. I don’t recommend that you replace them with anything, though.