Oh my stars, spring has sprung: it’s Vidalia onion season here in Georgia! As a native Georgian, the unusually sweet Vidalia onion occupies a special place in my heart and stomach (from April-September at least, when they’re in season). I celebrate the magnificent onion year round, though. It is the foundation* of most dishes, the backbone of any soup and stock, the moral and vegetable fiber of the food community, the ingredient mint companies rely on for profits; and, may I propose—the goddamn heart of America?
I reckon you think I’m kidding, but it’s the heart of my America. Onions are my base and my garnish; my peanut butter and my jelly; the butter to my bread and the bread to my butter. That last one didn’t make sense. My point is, any savory dish worth its salt is usually accented by a type of onion. In a quest to exploit the onion’s ambidextrous nature and complexity, I developed a sweet n’ savory jam that you can pull off with minimal finesse, few ingredients, and maximum wow factor. I wanted something versatile that packs a punch (of flavor), spreads like butter, and marries the contrary bright and velvety qualities of onions through caramelization.
And you bet your bottom dollar this jam does all of that and more, all while celebrating two of Georgia’s finest agricultural products (Vidalia onions and pecans). Caramelizing the onions slowly coaxes its sweetness to the surface and unearths a deeper flavor than a simple sauté. Fatty pecans and a dash of vegan mayo give the jam a buttery flavor and consistency, and a touch of balsamic vinegar cuts the deeply salty-sweet flavor with a pop of acidity.
This stuff is the perfect addition to a sandwich, an innovative soup or pasta topper, a zippy salad dressing base, and enough of a star to shine by itself on toast or as the spread in a crudités platter. And, for you fellow southerners, melting a spoonful or two into a bowl of grits will rock your world.
But let’s be honest: it’s an onion’s world, and we’re just living in it.
*Garlic, too, but garlic deserves its own post
Caramelized Vidalia Onion & Pecan Jam
|Yield: 12 oz||Prep: 5 min||Cook time: 70 min|
- 2.5 cups crushed Vidalia onions (about two large or three medium onions)
- 2/3 cup pecan pieces
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbs coconut sugar, or your preferred sugar
- 2 tbs vegan mayo
- 1 tsp salt
Peel and quarter the onions and place in a food processor. Pulse until the onions become a slurry—it should look almost like a paste. Wear your onion goggles, y’all, because otherwise you will be weeping from all the syn-propanethial-S-oxide in the air. Place the olive oil in a heated saucepan and add the onions, balsamic vinegar, salt, and coconut sugar. Stir regularly for about 10 minutes over medium heat, then reduce to simmer and put the lid on the saucepan. Allow the mixture to caramelize for 45 minutes (stirring occasionally) with the lid on. After 45 minutes, take the lid off and finish caramelizing the mixture for 15 more minutes, stirring regularly. It should be a deep brown at this point.
Place the mixture to your food processor and add the pecans and vegan mayo. Pulse until everything is incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Store in a glass jar or airtight container in the fridge. This will keep for about a month.
- If you don’t have Vidalia onions, that’s okay! Other onions will make suitable substitutes: yellow or white onions, red onions, shallots…you could even try this with green onions or leeks, but the caramelization process will vary and I cannot predict how that would turn out. Experiment away.
- No access to pecans? Are they too expense in your part of the world? You can easily substitute with walnuts.
- If you do not have a food processor, google them and get one. It’s a valuable investment. My family has had the same Cuisinart food processor since the 1970s, and I just gave it to a friend after my parents bought a new one. That thing has been going for 40+ years and still works!
- You’ll need to find a way to pulverize the onion mixture and walnuts together into a jam in the meantime. Blender? Mortar and pestle? IDK dude, try it and let me know.
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