Last year I made my first ever foray into preserving, with a rather nice caramelised red onion chutney. I say “rather nice”, but at the time (a month after I made it) I wasn’t totally convinced. My daughter and her boyfriend, however, stole all my supplies and thought it was brilliant with everything. Apparently it was especially good with cheap white bread and cheese in a toasted sandwich – and made them feel slightly less poverty-stricken as they waited for their loans to come in. 🙂
This time, I decided to try something different and went for a red onion marmalade recipe which uses an entire bottle of red wine and 200ml port, along with 140g butter and the same amount of sugar. It’s much richer than the previous one.
Because I let this cool (don’t) before reheating, I tasted some before it went in the jars. It’s lovely: sweet and sticky, a lovely colour and would liven up even the most boring sandwich. It should also be good stirred into gravies and tomato sauces.
My terrible photo and under-filled jar don’t do it justice. If you’ve got the time and inclination, I’d definitely suggest trying this. I’m going to order some smaller gift-style jars and hand some of them out around Christmas.
Recipe (which I followed to the letter this time!)
2kg red onions
4 garlic cloves
4tbsp olive oil
140g golden caster sugar (Superfine sugar for anyone in the U.S.)
1tbsp fresh thyme leaf
pinch of chilli flakes (optional, I did)
75cl bottle red wine
350ml sherry or red wine vinegar (I used the latter.)
The recipe says that it will take 2.25 hours to cook, plus cooling time. It actually took a lot longer.
The recipe also says it’ll make around four 500ml jars but I got 2.25. Some of that will be down to cooking it for longer but I still think four would be ambitious.
Can be eaten straight away but keeps for up to three months in the fridge once opened. (I don’t see it lasting 3 months – it’s gorgeous.)
Halve and thinly slice the onions (which will take ages but is well worth the effort) and then thinly slice your garlic. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based pan over a high heat. Add onions and give them a good stir to ensure they are well coated. Note: I used an enormous chef’s pan and it was initially very full. I found the easiest way to stir without chucking onion over the sides was to use a chopstick until it cooked down a little.
Sprinkle over the sugar, thyme leaves, chilli flakes and some salt and pepper. Stir really well to ensure nobody gets a mouthful of unmixed chilli seeds and reduce the heat slightly. Cook, uncovered, for about 40 – 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.
The onions are ready when all their juices have evaporated, they are slightly sticky and you can smell the caramelising sugar. They should be so soft that they break when pushed against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon. Note: The recipe says slow cooking is key and not to rush this part. It took about an hour and a quarter for the onions to reach that stage. It might be that a cast-iron pan would have seen a faster result than my Circulon, but the internets say onions always seem to take longer than recipes say. Allow lots of extra time.
Pour in the wine, vinegar and port and simmer everything, uncovered, over a high heat, stirring occasionally until the onions are a dark mahogany colour and the liquid has reduced by about two-thirds. When drawing a spoon across the bottom of the pan clears a space which fills rapidly with syrupy juice, it’s done. Note: This bit took about an hour and a half and then very suddenly the liquid reduced a touch further than I’d have wanted. The consistency is still lovely, though, I just maybe didn’t get as much of it as I might have done.
Leave the onions to cool in the pan, then scoop into sterilised jars and seal.
If you’re new to this sort of thing, here’s a video on how to sterilise glass jars and their metal lids.
Filling jars is much easier when you use a wide funnel like this, which you can sterilise in boiling water with the lids.
Take jars out one at a time as you need them, and fill them as full as possible. I’d suggest using smaller jars so you can keep them sealed until you need them. Just store in a cool dry place and in the fridge once opened.
I’m going to have another crack at the original recipe I tried, because it’ll be much cheaper and, frankly, healthier, than this one. That said, I would quite like to keep a jar of this on hand – I can see it being a useful addition to any number of recipes. I’m considering trying to combine it with cheese scones. There might be some technical reason why that wouldn’t work, but having never studied this sort of thing, I shall find out the entertaining way.