At the Hyde Park Farmers' Market Sunday morning I saw some beautiful red onions. I wanted to make salad onions, but standing at the booth I couldn't remember how many onions the recipe called for. So I bought three generously-stacked quart boxes and ended up with 7 1/2 pounds of onions -- which turned out to be over twice what I needed. No worries, as I'd also seen a recipe for a red onion relish that sounded interesting.
It was promising to be a lazy day -- husband and son both out of town, daughter still asleep from a late babysitting job the night before -- so I decided I'd make both the salad onions and the relish.
The salad onions recipe calls for 2 1/2 pounds of small red onions in quarter-inch rings, and the relish calls for 4 pounds of thin slices. I had mostly big onions, so I used the smallest for the rings and then to make up balance sliced off the ends of the bigger onions. Once I had my 2 1/2 pounds of rings, I sliced the rest of the onions thin for the relish.
I made the relish first, since it calls for long cooking times. The recipe is Caramelized Red Onion Relish in The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving. This is good on broiled and grilled meats, especially pork and chicken, though the recipe notes also recommend it for steak -- it seems too sweet for that, to me. Spread it on toasted bread with horseradish on the other slice for a great sandwich of cold sliced pork.
RED ONION RELISH
4 half-pint jars
4 pounds red onions, sliced thin
1/2 c firmly-packed brown sugar
1 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
8 T balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 c red wine
In a heavy pan, saute onions and sugar over medium-high heat, stirring to prevent sticking, until onions are golden and start to caramelize and liquid has evaporated, about an hour. Add salt, pepper, vinegar and wine, bring to a boil, stirring to the bottom of the pan to scrape up any sticky bits, then lower heat and simmer until reduced to thicken the syrup, about another half hour. Taste and correct seasonings.
Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
The salad onions recipe I use is the one for Red Onions in Wine Vinegar in Linda Amendt'sBlue Ribbon Preserves. I use red wine vinegar instead of the white wine vinegar she calls for because red onions tend to wash out when cooked and preserved and I don't find that look very appetizing -- using red wine gives them back their nice deep pink color. The red wine vinegar I used has an acidity of 6% as compared to the white wine vinegar's 5%, so I'm not risking losing acidity (a concern when canning low-acid foods like onions in a hot water bath and the reason you shouldn't try to change proportions of low-acid vegetables to added acids in canning recipes.) I also process these the regular way -- 10 minutes in boiling water rather than her recommendation which is to pasteurize (30 minutes at 180-185 degrees) simply because I know of no easy way to keep a large kettle of water between 180 and 185 for 30 minutes without sitting on top of it. These are great on salads and also on burgers.
PEPPER-VINEGAR SALAD ONIONS
4 pint jars
3 pounds small red onions, sliced into 1/4" rings to make 2 1/2 pounds of rings
6 1/2 c red wine vinegar
3/4 c sugar
2 t whole black peppercorns
In a large heavy saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, and peppercorns. Over low heat, stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Add onions and simmer, gently stirring, 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Pack hot onions into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Allow to settle for a few moments, adding more onions if necessary.
Ladle syrup into jars, maintaining the 1/2 inch headspace. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
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