In Mexico’s Yucatan, pickled red onions—cebollas encuridas— are served at almost every meal, appearing as soon as you sit down, along with the salsa. They are a delightful and delicious way to enhance foods, from simply piling them on tortilla chips to using them to enhance a dish. I came to be fairly addicted to them when I toured the Yucatan a few years ago, and I now make them regularly.
You must use sour orange juice. It’s completely different from sweet orange juice—more like lime juice. Straight vinegar would be better than using sweet orange juice, but look for sour orange in the Hispanic- or Mexican-foods aisle of your grocery store, or check at a Hispanic grocery store. It’s worth the effort, because the flavor really is different if you try substitutes for the sour orange.
And just so you know, these are good with more than just Mexican food. Almost anywhere you’d use pickles, relish, or onions can be enhanced with this flavorful condiment. Enjoy.
Yucatecan Pickled Onions
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
boiling water, to cover
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sour orange juice, or to cover
1/2 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican oregano
Pour boiling water over the sliced onions. Let sit for 1 minute. Drain, discarding the water. Put the onion in a non-reactive container (glass, porcelain, etc.) and add the rest of the ingredients. Let sit for at least one hour, but preferably overnight. Depending on the size of the onion, makes 1 to 1-1/2 cups of pickled onion.
Note: If I’m pressed for time, which is almost always, I’ll just grab the bottle of Mojo Criollo that I almost always have on hand, and use that in place of everything except the onion. This great marinade can be found in just about any Hispanic grocery store, and it contains most of the ingredients listed above: sour orange, garlic, salt, pepper, and “herbs.” The difference in the result is close to unnoticeable—so feel free to take the easy way out.
©2009 Cynthia Clampitt