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Acclaim at last for Penny's perfect pickled onions
A Bushey pickler has finally been given recognition for her famous onions after 20 years of perfecting her father's secret recipe.
Penelope Dunlop beat 14 other cooks to win the Pickled Onion Competition at The Retreat pub in Reading on February 23.
Mrs Dunlop, who lives in Cooks Mead, said it was her daughter who entered her into the competition after seeing an advert in a paper.
However, the 68-year-old has been left in a bit of a pickle after this year's floods.
She said: "The trouble with all the bad weather is this country will not be able to grow the vegetables, so I might struggle to make them this year.
"My father taught me how to make pickled onions using his recipe and I’ve stuck to it ever since.
"Nobody knows my secret ingredient, not even my daughters.
"It’s a bit bizarre to win, seeing as I’ve made them for more than 20 years and never entered a competition before now.
"My strapline is ‘Pen’s Pickles make Perfect Ploughman’s’."
Mrs Dunlop, who also makes pickled cabbages, buys two sacks of onions a year to make her pickled onions, and said the trick is the choice of vinegar used.
Although she was reluctant to divulge the finer details of her recipe, Mrs Dunlop was happy to share the basics for any would-be picklers.
She said: "Firstly I peel the onion, put them in dry salt brine and then in the vinegar and leave them.
"It is important not to leave them too long because they go soft.
"It is also a seasonal hobby, so I make them in October and they last a few months if we are lucky, which is why it was great to win this competition in February.
"The process keeps me busy. The onions bring a tear to my husband’s eye. He walks in the house and tells me ‘It’s that time of year again’.
"It has also been great to save on Christmas presents every year, as I normally give a jar to friends and family.
"I am excited to have won though. This is how all big companies start, in a back kitchen. All the millionaires start small."
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