Cheap, Sustainable, Delicious: Holiday Gift Onion Jam

Still need some last-minute presents? Start slicing onions.

The secrect to finishing your holiday shopping is in the kitchen. (Photo: Ian Knauer)

Ian Knauer worked for ‘Gourmet’ and is the author of the IACP Award–nominated cookbook ‘The Farm.’

I don’t need to tell you that it’s crunch time for holiday shopping. If you’re anything like me, then the gifts that you’ve put off buying for this long are usually for the people who are hard to get gifts for. They either have everything or don’t want anything or maybe you don’t know them quite well enough to get them something special. But, still, you want to give them something to let them know you were thinking about them.

You should give them onions. Seriously, give them onions. Onions are great. They can be used in just about every recipe, they keep for a long time, they’re pretty, and they won’t put you in the red. But, of course, if you just gave everyone onions for the holidays people would think you were nuts. You would be nuts. Who does that? Well, I do.

And you know what? They all love it because I don’t just give them onions; I give them homemade onion jam. This sweet-savory caramelized goodness is the answer to many of my holiday woes.

Anything you make and give as a gift is always appreciated, and onions are inexpensive, which means you can cook up a large batch for all those people that are on your list, but you don’t have anything for. In my life that includes most of my family. Dad loves cheese, and onion jam is an awesome addition to a cheese board. My sister is gluten and dairy free, and so is onion jam, which she can stir into broth for a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants onion soup. Mom’s got everything—onion jam. Done.

Of course, this is some pretty good stuff, so I always keep a jar for myself.

Holiday Gift Onion Jam

Makes 10 half-pint jars

9 pounds red onions

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 cups dry red wine

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

6 bay leaves

2 tablespoons coriander seed

1 tablespoon mustard seed

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Peel and slice the onions, then cook in a large heavy pot set over medium heat, covered, until onions have wilted and released their liquid, about 30 minutes. Stir the onions occasionally to make sure they cook evenly. Uncover the pot and continue to cook, stirring more and more frequently, until the liquid has cooked off and the onions are caramelized (you may need to adjust the heat to low during the caramelization), about 25 minutes.

Stir in the wine, sugar, vinegar, bay leaves, coriander, mustard seed, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced and the jam is thickened, about 20 minutes. Let cool, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Clean 10 half-pint canning jars with lids and seals, then bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill the jars with the onion jam, then process the jars by placing them in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove the jars and let them cool to room temperature. Wrap and give.

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