Monday, June 3, 2013

Preserving Floyd: How Do You Solve A Problem Like Vidalia

I think it was a fundraiser but maybe not.  All I know was I got offered a 25 pound bag of  genuine sweet Vidalia onions straight from the farm in Vidalia, Georgia.  Not Vidalia-type onions but the real thing.  I've never had them before and often wondered about all the fuss but yes, Vidalia onions really are special.
They are really perishable too.  These are not your storage variety onion.  These are eat 'em  now onions!  But 25 pounds?  Oh yeah, that would've been some onion ring binge but it would've killed us so here's what happened instead.

First I pulled out the trusty mandoline and set the blade to 1/4" slices.  These onions were so huge that I had to cut them in half in order to fit them on the safety grip.

Two onions sliced filled a single tray.  I tasted a ring while I was prepping them and they were mild and definitely full of that signature sweet flavor.  There was none of that sulfurous bite I associate with our local onions.  I opted to not rinse the slices before spreading them on the tray.  Another bonus was dry eyes.  I didn't shed a single tear.
  Dehydrating preserved approximately 18 onions,
and yielded about a gallon.
Forget Funyuns kids, snack on this.  So way better.  And come Thanksgiving, turn your back on that can of greasy French's onions and top the green bean casserole with these. Oh, and use real bechamel sauce with your own sauteed mushrooms.  Screw Campbell's too.  Don't forget those beautiful green beans you canned or froze.  They deserve the best.

I continued slicing onions and heaped a 12 quart stock pot with more rings.  This took care of another 12 onions.  In the bottom of the pot was just a tablespoon or so of melted butter to help start the sauteing process without scorching.

I started on a medium heat and when I heard the onions start to sizzle I turned the heat to low.  I wanted a long slow trip to caramelization.

This batch was going to be divided between onion jam and onion soup.

I was amazed at how much liquid the Vidalias released. There was so much humidity in the dehydrator the first few hours that I was mopping up puddles on the counter.  The Vidalias took twice as long to dehydrate than a full load of yellow onions.  But for the onion jam and soup all that liquid reduced into concentrated flavor!  I weighed out and divided the cooked onions into two batches.

Caramelized Onion Jam
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 onions, large diced
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (not the aged sweet stuff)
1/2 cup brandy
1/3 cup honey
7 sprigs fresh rosemary, stems removed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet, add onions and cook until soft and translucent on medium high heat.

Once softened, lower heat to medium or medium low, and continue to cook onions until brown and caramelized. This will take a while.

Add remaining ingredients and simmer on low stirring occasionally until the jam reaches the gel point. To test jam, place a small plate in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. When jam starts to get thick, remove from heat and spoon a bit onto the frozen plate, and place back in freezer for 2 minutes. If the jam barely moves and looks like a proper jam, it is done. If the jam pools juice and looks loose, place pot back on stove until thicker and test again.

Pour hot jam into clean hot quarter pint jars and boil in a water bath for 10 min (15 minutes for half pint jars). Let cool and store in a dark place. Refrigerate any excess. Yields 5 quarter pints.

Onion Soup
I don't really follow a recipe for this.   This batch was made with the equivalent of 6 giant Vidalia onions, caramelized with a generous splash of Marsala wine.  Usually a dry sherry is more traditional but I was out.  Once the onions and Marsala were fragrant I poured in a gallon of my homemade venison stock.  Of course, beef stock is classic but we have venison.  You can use chicken or a vegetarian miso stock.  What's key here is that the stock is good.  If it's tasty enough to sip from a mug by itself, it's onion soup-worthy.  I allowed the flavors to simmer and meld for a half hour and then using a slotted spoon, I divided the onions between 4 quart containers.  Then I ladled the soup on top.  Because I have the space right now I chose to freeze it.  Normally I would pressure can it in quart jars with a half inch of head space, 90 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure (adjust for your altitude).

So now I have 9 Vidalia onions left in the basket.  We'll probably be having that onion ring binge soon.

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