It’s Sweet Vidalia Onion Time!
There’s a lot to look forward to in the Atlanta area in late Spring and early Summer. Berries of all kinds are coming in and we just started getting Georgia Peaches (more on that soon!). But there may be more excitement at my house when the Vidalia’s are in.
Living about an hour’s drive from Vidalia Country, we learned about them many years ago when we were driving down to the coast with our then young kids – and passed through Vidalia County. Signs even then were everywhere – you couldn’t miss them! After finding out their reputation, then trying them, we’ve been big fans all along. Truly the sweetest onions you can find anywhere!
And I’m not sure there’s anything my husband loves more than these – especially when he puts them in a pita pocket with slices of tomato and cucumber – ah, that’s summer!
So last year I began making a Vidalia Onion Relish – to hold onto more of these goodies all year long. The season is short (though cold storage has extended the buying time for these gems). And because my husband loves them so much, he’s now willing to cut and slice 20 lbs worth – yup, that’s a lot of tears! Well, not so much with Vidalias!
This recipe is adapted from the “So Easy to Preserve” cookbook (my favorite – the “Bible” of canning cookbooks), by the Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Georgia. This is also where the National Center for Home Food Preservation is based and if you haven’t discovered their website, take a look. Lots of good tips, recipes and safe canning advice.
I’ve made a few changes: first, I don’t grind my onions as they suggest. I cut them into large pieces (a large “chop”). I like this better when using them in other dishes, like toppings for roasts, appetizers and condiments, for example. I also cut down on the sugar (they suggest 4 1/2 cups for this recipe, I use 3) and have not found the taste or set to suffer.
I also add 2-3 bell peppers, chopped up chunky (red, orange, green, whatever I have on hand) to add color. You could use hot peppers such as jalepenos or banana peppers if you want a bit of kick to it. And my pickles always get extra mustard seed, so you find that added to the recipe as well. I like the taste and also the appearance this gives.
This makes a lot (you can see from the picture). I figured it came to about 10 quarts total. You can easily halve the recipe, but I’d add another 1/2 cup vinegar to give sufficient liquid.
I’ve put this large recipe up in various sized jars, using the Pint and One-Half size for home use – we go through a lot! The smaller sizes are meant for special uses and gifts. I get lots of repeat requests for this – happy to oblige! And notice the color – that yellow from the tumeric makes it quite appealing!
Uses? Already mentioned a few: top roasts generously during the last 30 minutes of baking or combine with the veggies you put around a pot roast when starting. Also good for meats that are pan sauted. Great spread on stronger cheeses such as Brie, Camembert for a quick appetizer – do the same thing on toast for an easy lunch. Of course, for toppings on hamburgers, hotdogs, and especially sausages. A friend suggested it on cooked lentils which I now love, too. Lots of uses in various cold salads such as potato, macaroni, pasta, bean salads, too. Now maybe you’ll want to go for the 20 lbs after all!
Vidalia Onion Relish
Makes about 10 quarts or 20 pints.
20 lbs. Vidalia Onions (organic preferred)
1/2 cup salt
5 cups apple cider vinegar (5%)
2 teaspoons tumeric
3 tablespoons pickling spice
3 tablespoons whole mustard seed
3 cups sugar (organic raw preferred)
Prepare onions and peppers by cutting into bite-sized chunks. Add 1/2 cup salt and let stand 30 minutes. Press out liquid by straining through a mesh sieve and discard.
Combine onions, peppers, vinegar, sugar, and spices in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil and cook until thick – this can take 30 minutes or more – stirring frequently.
Pack onion mixture into hot sterilized jars and cover with liquid, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and wipe rims, place lids and bands. Process 10 minutes after water returns to boil in a boiling water bath. Remove to counter and let stand undisturbed for 12 hours. After 1 hour check lids for seal. Place any unsealed jars in refrigerator. Label and store sealed jars in cool, dark place.
Your uses for Vidalia Onions? We’d love to hear them.