Tag Archives: Onions

Onion Jam

"Cheese and Crackers": Sylvan Star gouda, dried fruit and nut cracker, and onion jamThis is one of my favourite condiments of all time.

I make two different versions of this jam, one for red onions and one for white onions, the only difference being the colour of the final product.  The recipe below is for the red variety.  To make the brown marmalade, at left, use white onions, dark brown sugar, and cider vinegar instead of red onions, white sugar, and red wine vinegar.

 

Red Onion Jam
adapted from River Cottage Preserves Handbook

Ingredients

  • 120 g canola oil
  • 1300 g red onion (about 4 large onions)
  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 120 g crabapple jelly, or some other red fruit jelly, such as currant
  • 200 mL red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Procedure

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the onions.  Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are wilted and beginning to colour, about 40 minutes.
  2. Add the sugar and jelly.  Increase the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring more frequently, until the mixture turns dark brown and most of the moisture has been driven off, about 30 minutes.
  3. Add the vinegar.  Increase the heat to high and cook rapidly until the mixture becomes gooey and a spoon drawn across the bottom of the pan leaves a clear track across the base, about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and season with the salt and pepper.  Spoon into warm, sterilized jars and seal.  Use within a year.

 

Below is the red version of this jam, which I served as a condiment for puffball mushroom fritters at last year’s Ukrainian Christmas dinner.  Photo courtesy of Valerie Lugonja.
Puffball mushroom fritters with red onion jam

Rhubarb Onion Jam

The fond: the essential flavour of rhubarb onion jamI’ve had recipes for rhubarb relish passed to me from both my family and Lisa’s.  Though one is from Ontario and the other from Alberta, they are uncannily similar: one part chopped rhubarb and one part chopped onion, stewed together with cinnamon, clove, and other “pumpkin pie” spices.

This has been my default rhubarb sauce to accompany meat and hearty bread for the past couple years, but I have to admit it’s not a show-stopper.  I’ve been trying to elevate this recipe, and a friend of mine recently found the way.  His discovery of rhubarb onion jam was one of those rare times when something in the kitchen goes horribly wrong, but the food turns out better than if all had gone according to plan.  I think many of our favourite foods were probably discovered this way: grape juice was left out, and mysteriously started to ferment; dry leaves fell into a pot of boiling water; or a marshmallow was accidently impaled on a stick and left too close to a campfire.  Rhubarb onion jam resulted from a similarly serendipitous mistake.

This happy accident can be reproduced in a controlled manner through an intensive cycle of developing and capturing fond.  Remember that word, “fond”?  The one with the nasal “on” and the silent “d”?  We discussed it briefly here.The mistake was that a pot of simmering rhubarb relish was left unattended for an hour.  By divine providence the pot was covered, and enough moisture trapped within that the relish didn’t really burn, but rather stuck to the bottom in a thick mat of caramelized “jam.”  With a little water and scraping, that jam was retrieved and found to be delicious.

To create good fond, you need a stainless steel pan.  To capture it, you need a wooden spoon, and possibly some liquid.

Start with the abovementioned ratio of rhubarb and onions.  Cook them in a bit of hot oil.  When the rhubarb and onions have broken down to a paste, spread them evenly across the surface of the pan.  Once a layer of caramel-coloured fond has developed on the bottom, use the wooden spoon to scrape the fond into the paste. Redistribute the mixture and repeat.  If the fond is difficult to remove, add a few tablespoons of water; they should help lift the sticky residue off the pan.

The mixture will slowly darken and thicken.  Continue the process until a jam-like consistency is achieved.  I finished the mixture with honey, to balance the concentrated tartness of the rhubarb.

The rhubarb and onions shrink dramatically in the process.  Starting with 300 g onions and 300 g rhubarb (about four cups of ingredients all told), I finish with less than one cup of jam.

Rhubarb onion jam gets along famously with cornbread and pork.

Rhubarb onion jam spread on cornbread