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To remove onion skins, blanch onions in boiling water 1 minute; drain; run cold water over onions to chill them quickly; drain again. With a sharp knife, trim off root end; slip off skin and any dried or leathery inner layers. Place onions in large glass, stainless steel or enamel bowl and mix thoroughly with 4 tbsp (60 mL) pickling salt. Cover and let stand 8 hours or overnight, stirring once or twice. Fill boiling water canner with water. Place 10 clean half-pint (250 mL) or 5 clean pint (500 mL) mason jars in canner over high heat. Drain salted onions and rinse thoroughly in cold running water; drain and pat dry with a towel. Place Bernardin Snap Lids in boiling water; boil 5 minutes to soften sealing compound. Tie peppercorns, allspice and mustard seed in a large square of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag. Place spice bag in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan with vinegar, sugar and remaining 2 teaspoons (10 mL) salt. Bring to a boil; boil 2 minutes. Add onions and return mixture to a boil. Discard spice bag. If using hot peppers, thoroughly wash them in hot water. Pack 1 washed hot pepper and 1 bay leaf in a hot jar. Pack hot onions snugly in jar to within 3/4 inch (2 cm) of top rim. Add boiling pickling liquid to cover vegetables to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top rim (head space). Remove air bubbles by sliding rubber spatula between glass and food; readjust head space to 1/2 inch (1 cm). Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Center Bernardin Snap Lid on jar; apply screw band just until fingertip tight. Place jar in canner. Repeat for remaining seasonings, onions and pickling liquid. Cover canner; return water to a boil; process 10 minutes for half-pint (250 mL) jars or pint (500 mL) jars at altitudes up to 1,000 ft (305 m). Remove jars. Cool 24 hours. Check jar seals. (Sealed lids curve downward.) Remove screw bands; store separately. Wipe jars, label and store in a cool, dark place.
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