The day before pickling, put the shallots in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to cool, then drain and peel away the skins and trim the root ends. In a large bowl, mix the coarse crystal sea salt with 300ml boiling water and let it dissolve to make a brining solution. Add 1.2 litres cold water, then the shallots. Cover and leave to soak overnight. The next day, drain, rinse then drain again. Pack the shallots into sterilised jars (see tip below). To make the pickling vinegar, put the whole spices in a medium saucepan. Toast over a low heat until they begin to smell aromatic. Add the dried chilli flakes last, as these can easily catch. Add the bay, pour in all of the vinegar and sugar, let it dissolve, and bring to a simmer. Pour the hot vinegar over the shallots and seal while hot. Ready to eat in 1 month, or longer, if you like.