Saving Sweet Onions
The best ways to keep those giant sweet onions.
When there are too many onions, or find a great sale on them, its Caramelized Onion time. Fill a crock pot with sliced onions and allow them to slow cook overnight. When you wake up, you will discover the onions are transformed into a pricey gourmet treat I am too frugal to buy.
I started with several super sweet giant onions from the farmers market. Sweet onions have a short shelf life, so plan to freeze or dehydrate onions you will not use within a month. Super sweets should be refrigerated. Store onions in a cool, dry place. Sweet onions store for a maximum of three months, but storage types may last throughout the winter.
Once reduced to a pale golden layer of soft, fragrant onions, allow them to cool completely. Use these sweet, tender onions as a base for soups, vegetable broth, or the best Onion Soup ever made. Caramelized Onions are the base for onion and tomato pie.
When onions are cool, store extra onions in one cup portions in freezer bags or containers. Label and date packages. Later, drop the onions, frozen, into soup, veggie broth, chili, or stew.
Sweet Caramelized Onions are tasty enough to serve as a side dish topping. Just season with a splash of herb vinegar, vegan butter, thyme, salt pepper. Serve over toast, on roasted vegetables or green beans. or layer in a vegetable lasagna.
Slice onions and add to crock pot with 2 tablespoons of vegan butter and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Make the recipe your own by adding a splash of white wine, cracked pepper, a spring or two of fresh thyme.
Caramelizing onions is a great way to extend the sweet onion season. Whether you are a fan of sweet Texas onions, Walla Walla or the famous Vidalia, give this crock pot recipe a try. It also works with other white or yellow onions, they just aren’t as sweet.
If you have red onions to keep, try making a quick refrigerator pickle recipe. It’s the best thing that ever happened to a grilled or roasted veggie sandwich.
Pickled Red Onions
1 tablespoon cane sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ – 2 cups of white vinegar
herb sprigs or peppercorns (optional)
Slice 2 or 3 medium size red onions in 1/4” slices.
In a small sauce pan, add sugar, salt and vinegar. Heat and stir until sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Add onion slices. Heat through and cook for 1 minute.
Add a sprig of herbs or a few peppercorns to the bottom of each container or jar.
Pack onions into pint canning jars or a container with tightly covered lid.
Pour vinegar over onions to completely cover the onions. Close the jars or containers and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Keeps up to three weeks in refrigerator.
Suggested herbs: oregano, dill, thyme or small nasturtium leaves.
To Dehydrate Onions
Another method of preserving a lot of onions is to dehydrate them. That intense onion flavor will boost onion flavor in French onion soup, and enliven any veggie burger.
When onions are completely dry, put them in the blender to make onion powder. It is a perfect, space-saving, long-term storage method for onions.
Onion Soup Recipe
- 4 large sweet onions (about 3 pounds), thinly sliced*
- 2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
- 4 -6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (your choice)
- 1 or two fresh springs of thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dry)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 cups of vegetable broth
- slices of baguette to top soup bowls
- 1/2 cup shredded vegan cheese
- Fresh chives or thyme leaves, for garnish
* any combo of mild or hot onions, leeks, shallots to equal 3 pounds
Heat a soup pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onions and stirring often until onions begin to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan. When the wine has evaporated, add garlic, thyme sprigs, salt, pepper and 6 cups of vegetable or mushroom broth (or water). Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 40 minutes and then remove thyme springs.
Ladle onion soup into oven-safe bowls. Top with a slice of baguette and spread each slice with 1 tablespoon of shredded vegan cheese. Place in a hot oven or under the broiler for 5 to 7 minutes, or until cheese is hot and golden.
Garnish with chives or green onions and serve.
The easiest way to grow alliums* and establish your own onion patch is with a starter pot of chives. Or, plant a clove or two of your kitchen garlic, or order onion starts from a commercial grower. The cheapest way to grow onions is to start them from seed.
*Allium is a genus of monocotyledonous flowering plants that includes hundreds of species, including the cultivated onion, garlic, scallion, shallot, leek, and chives.
Grow an onion patch
Onions prefer light, sandy, loamy soils, good drainage and full sun. They will grow in other types of soil, including clay. Green onions can be grown in partial shade.
Begin growing onions indoors from seed about six weeks before the last predicted frost date. Sow in flats, then transplant onions to 1″-2″ apart. Harden off onion seedling before transplanting outdoors to prevent sunscald.
I have my best luck growing onions from sets or starts. These baby onion plants are ready to plant. Even though sets are more expensive, they can be directly planted where the onions will grow. Or, plant them closer, thinning and using green onions until the remaining onions are properly spaced.
I buy onions and leek plants from Dixondale Farms. Start with well worked soil before planting. Onions are successful in the garden or in containers.
Spacing depends on the variety of onion. Generally, planting to 3″ – 4″ inches apart for green onions and thinning to at least 5-6 inches apart for bulbing onions. Proper spacing will affect the size of the mature onion.
Harvest onions a week after the tops have start to yellow and fall over
Most home cooks love having a year round supply of onions. They are easy to grow, take up little garden space and the varieties are endless. Onions are a recipe staple used in all cuisines of the world.