Often at the end of summer there are a lot of sweet onions that didn’t sell at market but are not storing as well as the fall storage onions. So they need to be used up. The way that I make sure they don’t just go into the compost is to caramelize them and either make onion jam or freeze the caramelized onions in a small bag for use later on.
For the record: sweet onions are not the best for caramelizing because they have more water in their cells which dilutes the acids in onions making them piquant, thus giving the impression that they are sweet. In caramelizing you have to cook all that water out before getting good color and so it takes longer and often results in a more broken down end result. But using sweet onions in a less ideal way is still better than chucking them into the compost.
- 5-10 lbs of onions
- 2 big pinches of salt
- ¼ C balsamic vinegar
- Tip and tail the onions and then slice into petals. The smaller they are cut the faster they will cook, but the more likely they are to break down. I don’t worry too much about the size and just focus on getting them cut
- In a large pan, the more surface area available to evaporate off the liquid the better, heat a good glug of neutral oil and add the onions and salt
- Cook until they are deep, deep golden brown. You don’t need to pay much attention to them while they are cooking. But don’t ever cover the pot because it will keep the water in defeating the whole purpose.
- When they start to brown a lot and get sticky on the bottom of the pan, deglaze by adding some water (or wine if you’re inclined) and scrape the brown off the bottom. It only adds color and flavor.
- And hold your nerve; cook them longer than you think.
- The absolute key to caramelized onions is the dark, rich flavor
- At the end add the vinegar and cook until the harsh vapors are cooked off (another 5-10 minutes). This gives lift to the onions without tasting vinegary.