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In this article, I walk you through the steps of water bath canning pickled onions in the Nesco Canner. If you don’t have a Nesco Smart canner, you can water bath can these pickled onions in any canner, or even a large pot with a lid. You can also use any type of onion for this recipe. I prefer to pickle red onions because of the vibrant color. These pickled red onions are a beautiful sight to behold but pickled white or yellow onions also taste great.

Without further ado, let’s get into water bath canning pickled red onions in the Nesco Smart Canner.

Water Bath Canning Pickled Red Onions in the Nesco Smart Canner

Pro Tip: These instructions work with both the Nesco canner and the Carey canner

Pickled Onion Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of onions
  • 5 1/2 cups of vinegar, 5% acidity (I use white vinegar)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons salt (I use kosher salt)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 8 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Yield: This recipe makes 5 pint jars of pickled red onions.

Prepare Your Jars and Lids

It’s not necessary to sterilize jars before water bath canning, as long as you process the recipe for a minimum of 10 minutes. However, since I’m using hot brine for the pickled onions, I want to start with hot jars. It’s also helpful to start with hot water in the canner.

making pickled onions in the nesco smart canner is easy
I love using my Nesco canner to heat my jars!

To kill two birds with one stone, I heat my jars and the water in my Nesco canner using the water bath setting. All I do is put the jars into the canner and add enough water to cover the jars.

I put the valve in the exhaust position when using the canner to heat my jars. I also use it when I do the actual canning, when water bath canning.

I then close the lid, ensure that the valve is in the exhaust position, and select the water bath setting. I put 1 minute on the timer, simply because putting in some time is required. After pressing start, I listen for the sound of boiling water. I also watch for steam coming out of the vent. Once I hear the sound of boiling water, and see steam, I unplug the canner. I leave the lid on so that the water and jars stay hot.

Depending on the type of lids you’re using, you can also heat the lids in the canner at the same time, or heat them in a small saucepan on the stove. Since I decided to use Harvest Guard lids for this project, I heated the lids and gaskets. This step is unnecessary if using traditional metal lids such as Ball or Kerr lids.

Prepare the Onions

preparing onions for pickled onlines
Peel, cut in half, and slice onions about 1/4″ thick before placing in jars.

While waiting for the water in the canner to heat, I get started on preparing the onions.

Preparing the onions for pickling is a very easy and straightforward process. All you need to do is peel and slice the onions.

After peeling the onions, I cut the onions in half, and then slice them about 1/4″ thick slices.

Prepare the Brine for the Pickled Onions

water bath canning pickled onions

After I peel and slice the onions, I prepare the brine. (During this time, most likely, the jars and water in the canner are still heating up. If you notice the water is boiling and the heat is escaping, go ahead and unplug the canner at this point.)

To prepare the brine, pour the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, for about 3 minutes.

Filling the Jars for Your Beautiful Pickled Onions!

you can use a variety of spices when canning pickled onions
Distribute all of the spices evenly between the 5 jars before adding the onions.

Put the following into each pint jar:

  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

After distributing the spices, fill each jar with sliced onions. I like to pack in as many onions as I can.

After packing the jars with onions, add brine to each jar, leaving 1/2″ headspace.

Debubble the Jars

Debubble the jars before adjusting for proper headspace.

After filling the jars, debubble them. After debubbling you may find that you can fit a bit more brine and onions in the jars. Or you may find that you need to remove a little bit of onions and brine from the jars. The bottom line is that you want 1/2″ of headspace, so add or remove ingredients as needed.

Add the Lids and Rims

canning pickled onions
Wipe the rims with vinegar before putting on the lids and rings.

Once you’ve debubbled the jars with the pickled onions, wipe the rims with a paper towel that you’ve dipped in vinegar. This is to make sure you don’t have any type of debris on the rims that may keep the jars from sealing.

After wiping the rims, put on the lids based on the lid manufacturer instructions. (This varies based on the type of lid you use. For standard metal canning lids such as Ball or Kerr, put the lids on fingertip tight. For Harvest Guard or Tattler lids, put the lids on looser.)

Place the Jars of Pickled Onions into the Canner

When water bath canning, be sure to cover the jars with at least 1″ of water.

At this point, most of your work is done! Put the jars of pickled onions into the canner. Be sure to place the jars on a rack in the bottom of the canner.

Cover the jars with at least 1″ of water.

Pro Tip: As you can see in the image above, I used reusuable lids when canning the pickled onions. But what about reusing regular canning lids? To learn more about that, check out my article, Can Canning Lids be Reused?

Process Your Pickled Onions for 10 Minutes, Adjusting for Altitude

Now it’s time to process your pickled onions! The processing time for pickled onions is 10 minutes, for altitudes of less than 1000 feet. In my case, due to my altitude, I needed to process the onions for 15 minutes. If you’re unsure of how to check your altitude, or how to adapt canning recipes based on altitude, be sure to check out this article and video.

Water Bath Canning in the Nesco Smart Canner

water bath canning in the Nesco smart canner.
I created this checklist for canning with my Nesco smart canner to help me remember to do each of the steps.

I demonstrate water bath canning using the Nesco Smart Canner in the video.

Look at these Beautiful Pickled Onions!

Red pickled onions are a beautiful sight to behold!

I couldn’t be any happier with how these pickled onions turned out. They taste great, and they look beautiful in the jar. The brine turns a hot pink color after processing. The onions also maintain a nice pink color. This is why I use red onions for this recipe. White or yellow onions won’t produce such a beautiful end product, but they taste great. So use whatever type of onions you have. But if you’re purchasing onions specifically for pickling onions, then I strongly recommend going for red onions.

Pro tip: You may hear some people say that the Nesco canner isn’t safe. Check out my article, Is the Nesco Canner Safe? for more information on the safety factors with this canner.

Here are some of my favorite canning tools

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful as you strive to stock your pantry with delicious home-canned food! Here are some tools that I use as a canner that I’m hoping you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to use any of them, I’ll earn a commission. Please know that these are the tools that I actually use and recommend and believe in 100%!

Nesco Smart Canner: You can see that many of the posts on my site show me using the Nesco canner. This is by far my favorite canner to use, and because of that, it’s the one that I recommend. Note that the Nesco and Carey Smart Canners are the exact same thing. So, if you go to Amazon and see that Nesco canners are out of stock, but the Carey is available (or cheaper!), then by all means buy a Carey. As long as you have either a Nesco or Carey, you can follow along with what I demonstrate on this blog.

Tattler Reusable Lids: I use both Tattler and Harvest Guard reusable canning lids. They are both American made, made by the same family. I prefer to buy my Tattler lids from Lehman’s, since they are a small, family-owned company. You can get Tattler lids from Lehman’s here, but if you prefer to buy from Amazon, you can get them here.

Metal Canning Lids: I have always been a fan of Ball canning lids. However, due to cheap knock offs on Amazon that claim to be Ball lids, I no longer purchase them from Amazon. You can get them from Lehman’s here. Another solid brand that Lehman’s sells is Superb. They are thicker and seem to have better quality gaskets. Here are the regular mouth lids and here are the wide mouth lids.

Norpo Canning Tools Boxed Set: I love this set of canning tools because it truly includes all the basics that you need, whether you’re water bath or pressure canning. Occasionally I’ve lost one of the items in the set and to replace it, had to buy it separately. It’s definitely more cost effective to buy the entire set.

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: This is the first canning book that I purchased, and it’s still the one that I refer to most often. Especially when you’re first learning to can, it’s important to use trusted recipes and instructions that you know are safe. This book provides some great canning recipes to get you started, and also gives a lot of great “how to” canning information. When in doubt, look it up in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving!

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy my article, Is it Safe to Steam Can in the Nesco Canner?

And by the way, if you want to make some pickled food that doesn’t require canning, check out my articles, Jalapeno Pickled Eggs, Quick Pickled Banana Peppers and Canning Cherry Tomatoes.