Simply Onions

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            This seasonal food lifestyle continues to point out the naïve spots in my thinking about food production.  I am fully prepared for greens, and citrus, and artichokes to come and go, but I guess I did always think that onions were perennial.  Well guess what?  There is also an onion season, when they are fantastic, and then there is an off-season when they are dodgy or completely unavailable.  Now is the season and they are firm and potent. 

            I am a little nutty about collecting canning jars right now.  I used precious suitcase space to bring some back from the US this summer and when I was in Florence last weekend and saw an amazing selection at a grocery store, I filled our insulated wine bags with empty jars instead of the wine I had been instructed to purchase.  Look how cute they are?  Just dream of what could be put away in the baby food and milk bottle sizes.  I do.
            Canning and preserving food is a hip topic in the food world these days.  Here’s an inspiring blog: Saving the Season, with a soon to be published book.  I read this and then think, yes, I’m going to the market right this minute and I’m going to spend the rest of the day processing whatever looks great.  But then we don’t actually need to stock up our pantry like we’re “preppers” and I might like to do one or two other things in a day besides canning food.    I think I’m more in line with the Italian style of when you are already cooking and you’ve got some extra, pop it into a jar or two to have again in the not too far off future. 
            Giorgio Locatelli recommends putting some of these onions in jars as a future flavor cache.  The directions are my paraphrase.
Balsamic Onions
1.     Peel a batch of tiny onions, leaving the stem intact.
2.     Combine equal parts sherry vinegar and white wine (begin with 250 ml of each and adjust if you need more to cover your onions). 
3.     Add onions and parboil until just tender.
4.     Strain onions from liquid, allow to cool at room temperature and remove the outer layer.
5.     In a heavy bottomed pan, large enough to hold the onions.  Add onions, sprinkle with enough brown sugar to get some on all of the onions and then gently toss over medium heat until the sugar melts, caramelizes slightly, and covers the onions.
6.     Add balsamic vinegar to cover the onions and simmer briefly.
7.     The onions are ready to eat at this point or you can put them in sterilized jars, making sure to cover all onions with vinegar.  Cap the jars with sealable lids and process in a water bath.  When jars have cooled, make sure the lid is fully sealed before putting them in on a dark shelf for storage.  If a jar isn’t sealed, either reprocess with a new lid or put in the refrigerator to eat within two weeks.    The flavor will improve with time, but eat within 6 months.

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