O285: Onions

Although I love exploring new foods, both native and exotic, there is a real pull for me to acknowledge an absolute basic food in my culinary world, the onion. I find that an onion can transform the most basic food into a recipe. If I had to choose my number one fresh food to eat with my bulk purchases it would be onion. Forget that, I don’t really thing I could choose – diversity is key. Nonetheless, I believe the onion is a staple I never want to do without.

I most commonly have the yellow or red onions on hand, but there isn’t one in the basic family types here I wouldn’t want in my pantry. I have grown bunching onions or shallots semi-successfully. I say this because they never got very large or robust. They were sad, sorry little shoots that flavored an assortment of solar oven stews and a couple of salads. It may be the climate and I lack the gardening know-how yet to do more than guess.

How do I preserve onions? The best little tip I came across is to store onions in panty hose. Now there is a use worthy of this stupid invention. The image (from Walla Walla Onions) spells it out. Hang it in a cool, dry place and it is supposed to keep onions up to six months. Only thing is I haven’t had hose for many years.

I would like to try my hand at drying some onion with a friend's dehydrator. Freezing is out because I don’t have a freezer. If I did I would take the suggestion of dicing the onions laying them out on a cookie sheet in the freezer and then packaging them. This way you can retrieve only the amount needed. I used this method for blueberries when I had a freezer.

There is one method of preserving, namely pickling, that I would like to try at some point. I have come across recipes via Google that sound really intriguing. I am especially interested in those that have jalapeno peppers. I learned this year and passed along in another post that capsaicin (what makes the pepper hot) kills microbes in food.

Before I leave the topic I want to suggest a beautiful way to dye eggs using onion skins. It isn’t really the theme of this post, but an important part of feeding one’s spirit with beautiful creative things. This photo is from a fascinating post here that describes natural dyes in great detail; using alum as a fixative for red & yellow onion skins, red cabbage and more. In the coming times of economic anxiety and want, this might be a way to nourish both body and spirit. And onion peels can be put to really good use prior to being put into the compost. Oh, and the cunning little leaf prints can be held in place on the egg using panty hose!


daharja said...

The eggs are sooooooo pretty! I'll have to try that with the kids.

Thanks for sharing!

katecontinued said...

Sometimes it is hard to compete with the razzle, dazzle bright colors of the commercial world. But, it occurred to me when I saw these that we don't have to wait for big deal commercial holidays to present these beautiful little treasure bits to ourselves and to others.

Imagine opening a lunch bag at work or school and having a naturally dyed egg there? Instant celebration.

Rosa said...

This post reminded me of a pickled onion recipe I use a lot. It's from Moosewood Cookbook Classics.

They're refrigerator pickles, so I don't know if you would use them, but I keep these on hand all winter - my favorite sandwich ever is black rye with pickled onions and swiss cheese (and right now a slice of fresh tomato - not for much longer, though.)

I copied this one off the web - mine is just a list of ingredients, on a piece of paper. I hand-copied it from the cookbook of people I used to babysit for - I never had any cash so I copied recipes out of this one & Jane Brody's book one at a time while the little boy drew or played with cars.

1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
up to 3 tbsps brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp whole peppercorns
4 medium red onions, very thinly sliced

combine vinegar, 1 cup water, sugar, salt and peppercorns in a medium sized bowl, and stir till the sugar is dissolved.

place the onion slices in a colandar in the sink, and slowly pour a kettle-full of boiling water over them; they will wilt slightly (well, so would you ...). Drain well, and transfer to the bowlful of marinade.

cover, and allow to marinate - at room temperature, or in the fridge - for several hours. Store in the fridge, and use as needed.

katecontinued said...