I’ve been planting various onions varieties since March. I love planting them because they are like little soldiers in the garden: erect, responsive, resilient, and utilitarian. Onions are a significant part of the pest management strategy at Stony Ridge Farm. I’ve been told and have observed that pests are fewer in the raised beds the season after an onion harvest. They are the perfect crop!
Onions are in the Allium genus of plants (onions, garlic, chives, leeks, and shallots) and grow with a single shoot up from the seed or bulb, rather than the two leaves known as cotyledons we know most seedlings by. Alliums also have a fantastic, edible starburst of a flower! When broken apart, the little flowers offer delicate beauty and a mild onion flavor to salads or as garnish to your main dish.
When your farm share is heavy with onions, don’t feel overwhelmed! Rather, teach yourself the meditative art of caramelizing. This simple cooking technique will come in handy while processing various vegetables and creating staple recipes. The process below will help you learn the skill and give you a store of caramelized onions for future recipes (if you don’t eat them by the forkful first). The final flavor is sweet and nutty. All of the Alliums can be caramelized!
To make a batch of caramelized onions you will need:
- 12’’ cast iron skillet (or your favorite large skillet)
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- 2 pounds of onions, any variety, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Set aside an hour of kitchen time for the process described below:
- Place your skillet over medium heat and add olive oil. Let the temperature rise and even in the pan for about 2 minutes, spreading the oil by rotating the pan occasionally.
- Add the onions all at once.
- Cook them down while stirring for about 5 minutes. Add a light sprinkle of salt.
- Once the onions have all become translucent, turn the flame down very low and allow the onions to continue cooking. Stir frequently. You will see the water steaming off the onions and begin to enjoy a sweet fragrant smell. This will take about 45 minutes. The onions will become brown as they caramelize.
- When done, the onions will smell sweet, have become brown, and are quite soft. At this point, drizzle the balsamic over the onions and stir. This releases the sugars from the bottom of your pan and adds flavor to your final product. Stir for about 2 minutes.
- Store cooled onions in a covered glass container in the refrigerator for future use.
Recommended uses for caramelized onions:
- Sandwich topping
- Salad topping
- A side for grilled meats
- In French onion soup
- Pizza topping
- In quiche recipes