Balsamic Onion Marmalade
Until I yanked them from the ground, my garden was lousy with onions. They sprung up suddenly over the past few weeks – heavy, green cylinders shooting up out of the earth. And they’re not just plain old, mild green onions. Nope – these are Italian Red Torpedo onions. Streaked with vivid hues of purple and resembling mini submarines in shape, they have a pungent bite a bit stronger than your average, spherical red onion.
My gardening pal Rachel procured what seemed like a bushel of them from a friend and planted them in my backyard. When she first put them in, I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic. They appeared a bit anemic. Tiny little, pale purple tubers dangling from delicate green threads. But her green thumb is much more pronounced than mine so off she went, trowel in hand, to bury the fragile plants in the earth. Thank god she had more faith in the little guys than I did – because these are some of the most delicious onions I’ve ever tasted. And they made me appreciate these vegetables that I have long taken for granted.
Once I noticed the plethora of onions gracing my garden, my mind went immediately to onion jam – or marmalade. Slathered on thick, rustic bread topped with a hearty cheese and a few stems of peppery arugula – this savory/sweet spread is a personal favorite. And I hoped to figure out a way to make my own – rather than shelling out the extortionary fees usually charged for this delicacy.
So I scanned the internet for recipes. And there are a ton. Too many to count. And all of them suggest different ingredients and methods. Red onions, yellow onions, sweet onions, and plain old white. Balsamic, white, cider or sherry vinegars. Cook them on top of the stove. Bake them in the oven. The recipes were all over the map. But when I landed on a recipe by my favorite Top Chef master Tom Colicchio – I knew I need look no further. Especially considering the title of the book from which this recipe hails – “’wichcraft: Craft a Sandwich into a Meal — And a Meal into a Sandwich.”
Now, I wanted to incorporate my fancy red onions into the recipe – so I sliced them thinly and, wanting to support our local farmers, combined them with sweet Walla Wallas. Tom used plain old yellow onions – which are likely delicious. And perhaps even easier as they don’t have the high water content of sweet onions – and would therefore need less cooking time. Also, I recognize that not everybody has Italian Red Torpedo onions lying about. So I’m pretty confident you can use any kind of onion you want. And no doubt many of the other recipes scattered on the internet are equally delectable. I merely liked the simplicity of this ‘wichcraft recipe – just onions, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper.
And the result? Sublime. Velvety and succulent. As promised, a fine balance of sweet and savory. The perfect accompaniment to a fabulous cheese platter. For meat eaters – no doubt a tasty topping for roasted pork – or any roasted meat for that matter. I’m planning on loading some on top of some baked sweet potatoes in the not-too-distant future. Or slathering some on toast to serve with the fresh eggs I received from my friendly neighbor the other day. The applications are virtually endless.
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Balsamic Onion Marmalade
Yield: approximately 6 cups
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 large sweet onions (Walla Wallla or Vidalia), thinly sliced (about 12 cups)
- 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup sugar (brown or white)
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat until it easily slips across the bottom. Add the onions, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, until the onions are soft.
Add the sugar and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 – 30 minutes, until the onions appear dry. (Note: the original recipe called for only 10 minutes for this step. However, as noted, I replaced sweet onions for the “regular” onions in Tom’s recipe and the sweet ones have a higher water content. So I had to cook them much longer – closer to 30 minutes.)
Add the vinegar and reduce the heat to low. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours, until the onions are soft and dry. Note – if you’re using sweet onions, you might be left with a lot of liquid as they simmer. After the first hour, try turning up the heat to medium high and gently boil the onions for about 10 minutes. Then return to low and continue to cook until most of the liquid dissipates.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Store in well-sealed canning jars in the refrigerator. It will keep for a few weeks.