Using a loop of twine as a hidden support when making a string of onions (or garlic) gives them a professional look that won’t unravel in storage. This is a slightly different method for storing onions compared to the ‘traditional’ approach of braiding the dried stems together, which has to be done really well to hold firm through the whole winter.
Make a 90cm (3′) long loop of strong twine secured with a reef knot so that it can’t slip, and hang it from a hook. To avoid stooping or stretching, the middle of the loop should be around neck height.
Select your first onion, checking that it has no soft bits or bore holes, and that the neck has dried out properly (if it feels squidgy, it’s not properly cured yet). Take any loose paper off the outside, and remove all but four to six inches of neck.
Fold over a loop at the bottom of your string as shown above. Put the neck of the first onion through it (just where Andy’s finger is in the picture) and then pull it down gently so that the loop tightens around it.
Holding the two sides of the loop apart, feed the neck of the next onion through and round the strings, making a figure 8. Each onion added to the string helps to keep those below it in place.
And so on, positioning your onions to keep the string as regular as possible. It’s easier if you keep the onion sizes similar, and you can stop the string from spinning so much if you hold the loop open with a clothes peg, as shown in the video.
Stop when the string is getting full, or when you realise you’re not going to be able to carry it without hurting your fingers. A string of onions can be seriously heavy, and if you overdo it (or if you don’t have a final hanging spot ready and waiting – see movie) you’ll be staggering around under the weight of a huge onion string with nowhere to put it. Take a tip from the professionals (really, watch the movie – you’ll love that bit) and prepare things beforehand.
When the string is big enough, just tie a knot at the top of the ‘braid’ to keep everything together, then it can be easily and securely moved.
Onion strings should be hung in a cool (but not frosty) dark place until needed. If you like, you can bring a single string into the kitchen and hang it somewhere handy. If you’re going to do this it’s best to make shorter strings with only the number of onions that you are likely to use within two or three weeks, as the warmth and light will eventually make them sprout, thinking that spring has arrived. When you need an onion, twist the one at the top of the string round a couple of times. This will be enough to break the dry and somewhat brittle leaf stem that attaches it to the string, while leaving the others in place.
When you’re stringing onions, don’t use any that show signs of damage or disease. These should be used up fairly quickly, or dried as an alternative storage method; get the time and temperature right and they’ll be so sweet and tasty you can eat them straight from the jar as a snack.