From Breakfast, Dinner and Tea 1860
"PICKLED ONIONS Take the smallest onions that can be procured, just after they are harvested, for they are never in so good a state for the purpose as then proceed, after having peeled them, exactly as for the eschalots, and when they begin to look clear, which will be in three or four minutes put them into jars, and pour the pickle on them. The vinegar should be very pale, and their colour will then be exceedingly well preserved. Any favourite spices can be added to it."
" PICKLED ESCHALOTS For a quart of ready peeled eschalots, add to the same quantity of the best pale white wine vinegar, a dessertspoonful of salt, and an ounce of whole white pepper; bring these quickly to a boil, take off the scum, throw in the eschalots, simmer them for two minutes only, turn them into a clean stone jar, and when they are quite cold tie a skin, or two folds of thick paper over it.
Eschalots, 1 quart; vinegar, 1 quart; salt, 1 dessertspoonful; whole white pepper, 1 oz
Obs. - The sooner the eschalots are pickled after they are ripe and dry, the better they will be."
From Modern Cookery 1858.
I made 3 batches of these. My onions are a type that is comparable to shallots so I was happy to find the pickled onion and pickled shallot recipes were so similar. I started with the recipe for Pickled Eschalots.
For my first batch I substituted apple cider vinegar and whole black pepper corn for the white wine vinegar and whole white pepper. I had 2 quarts of onions, so I doubled the recipe, except for the pepper. For that, I used only 3/4 of an ounce for the whole batch. While I was making it I didn't think it would be edible. However, these fit at the table of a poor farm family that is making due with what they have.
For my second batch, I used white vinegar and half as much ground white pepper. I had 3 quarts of onions, so I multiplied the recipe accordingly. It looks very nice.
For my third batch, I used white wine vinegar and whole white pepper. I had 2 quarts of onions, so I doubled the recipe. These are the best but the white wine vinegar was not as clear as the white vinegar. However, my onions are not a white type but instead a white with purple shoulders type.
I used the directions, from a modern canning book, for processing the onions. I salt brined the onions over night and rinsed them in the morning. Then I prepared the vinegar, salt and pepper and brought that to a boil. The onions were packed into clean hot jars and the boiling vinegar was poured over them. It was processed in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.