Fermenting Pearl Onions for Zesty Pickle Trays

Traditionally, fermented foods were served with each meal to aid in digestion and to provide necessary vitamins and minerals in the winter, when fresh foods were not available. Fermenting pearl onions will produce a nice change from the usual dish of sauerkraut or pickles. Read on for even more of Chris’ ideas.

Egyptian walking onions are long lived perennial onions that give you two crops.  They are well worth the space in your garden.  From early spring till frost they provide a continuous supply of green onion stems for salads and other places you’d use multiplier onions or spring onions.  I harvest individual stocks as I need them, by pinching-off the stem at the base of the plant, leaving the root in the ground.  Each root has several stems, similar to chives, and will continue to produce through the long season.

Sometime in late summer, Egyptian onions send up a flowering top.  But instead of the usual onion flowers, the top forms bulblets of baby onions.  Around August these bulblets get heavy enough to bend down to the ground and begin to root, walking the onion through the garden.  This is where they get their folk name “walking onions.”

Initially, you’ll want to plant these bulblets back into the soil to expand your onion bed.  Each little pearl onion on the stalk will form a brand new Egyptian onion plant.  Each stalk has four to six bulblets.

After a few years, you’ll have more than enough walking onions for your garden.  Your neighbors will thank you for Egyptian onion starts, too, but then you’ll run out of neighbors to give them to.

My original Egyptian onion plant is 25 years old, a start from a neighbor.   It’s expanded into a four-by-four-foot area in my garden. In late summer I get an abundant crop of onion bulblets from the patch.

The bulblets are about the size of a quarter and are perfect for fermenting.  When raw, they are hot and spicy.  But after pickling they lose some of that heat, though they still have a bite.

They look great on a winter pickle tray beside cucumber pickles and olives.  They make a nice hostess gift.  And they couldn’t be easier to make.  If you don’t yet have walking onions growing in your garden, you can use pearl onions, sold for pickling, in this recipe, instead.

A Pickled Pearl Onion Recipe

Yield: 1 pint


  • 3 cups of pearl onions or Egyptian onion bulblets
  • 2 tsp. sea salt or Himalayan salt
  • 2 cups of filtered water
  • 2 tbsp. starter culture or whey*


  1. Clean and sanitize a wide-mouth pint Mason jar and the Fermentools kit.
  2. Wash and peel the pearl onions, removing the papery outer skin.  Put them in a pint-size, wide-mouth Mason jar.  Some of the onions will be pink and some will be white.  The pink color is retained in the finished ferment.
  3. Mix the salt with the water and pour over the pearl onions inside the jar.  Add culture from a successful batch of fermented pickles or add whey as a starter.
  4. Place the Fermentools glass weight over the pearl onions, keeping them from floating to the surface of the brine.  The brine should be above the glass weight by at least half an inch.
  5. Place the Fermentools seal, cap, and fermentation lock on the jar.  Set aside for five days.
  6. During the fermentation, the onions will float against the weight.  When the onions drop in the jar, the fermentation is complete.  Remove the Fermentools weight from the jar and replace the fermenting lid with a regular jar lid.  Place the jar in the fridge.

You can serve the fermented onions immediately or allow the flavors to meld for a few weeks.  They taste amazing and retain the crispness of a fresh, raw onion, with just a hint of tartness.

Other Ways to Use Those Onion Bulblets

• Roast them with garlic cloves when you make a roast chicken.  They are sweeter when roasted.

• Add them to a pot roast in the last 30 minutes of cooking, to season the gravy.

• Slice them raw in a cheese sandwich; they are spicier than yellow onions.

• Add them to beet kvass before you ferment it, for a spicier beverage.

• Use them to replace half the garlic in Kosher Dill pickles.

• Sneak them from the jar, when no one is looking, they are that tasty.

*Fermentools does not support the adding of whey to ferments. While some folks like to do it to promote different strains of bacteria, or to give their ferment a boost, it is not necessary.


Himalayan powder salt dissolves easily in cool water, thereby making brine preparation easier. It also contains various trace minerals you want in your diet. You can find Himalayan powder salt in the Fermentools store.


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