Onion Jam for a Holiday Appetizer

Onion jam with cream cheese to spread on toasted baguette slices.

Onion jam with cream cheese to spread on toasted baguette slices.

So by now we have all heard about red pepper jelly, or garlic or onion jelly, and I’ll bet anything that you, or your neighbor, probably have a jar of the same on a shelf in your kitchen that someone gave you as a stocking stuffer or house gift. For a while, I was a little baffled about what to do with my little collection. It is not exactly what you put on toast, is it?

I found it was wonderful dumped on a slab of cream cheese, and served with a pile of crackers. Nothing easier. Since then, I have expanded my cheese list to include soft goat cheese, and even slightly warmed brie. And now, I have added onion and leek jams to my list of stuff to spread around, not just on cheese and crackers, but as a garnish for a creamy soup, roasted vegetables, boring old chicken breast, or a pork chop. It wonderfully transforms a grilled cheese sandwich.

Onions or leeks, sugar, butter, wine, and a touch of vinegar is all you need. I used white wine, because that is what I had left over in a bottle, though the original recipe called for red wine. I used red wine vinegar, but you could use a milder vinegar, like rice wine vinegar or malt vinegar. It goes together quickly and stores in the fridge. I’m taking some to friends in Connecticut where Toby and I are spending Thanksgiving. This jam might even serve as a good make-ahead Christmas present.

Pretty pink onion jam.

Pretty pink onion jam.

If you use onions, I’d like to suggest red ones, because you end up with a pretty pink spread. Leeks are tasty, very sweet, but do not make a very dramatic presentation. I prefer this on plain crackers or, preferably, homemade crostini. How to make homemade crostini? Slice day-old baguettes, then toast the slices for a few minutes in the oven, or if you want them slightly jazzier, brush them with olive oil, sprinkle then with salt and pepper, and then toast them in the oven. Store them in a tight-lidded container, and they will be there for you whenever you want them.

Well, until you eat them up, of course.


Onion Jam

2 medium onions, red preferred

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1/3 cup of wine

1 teaspoon wine vinegar

Shred the onions or slice then very thinly. Melt the butter in a heavy pan, add the onions, sugar, and a pinch of salt, and cook the mixture over a moderate heat for about thirty minutes, stirring frequently, until it is glossy. Add the wine and vinegar and cook the mixture for another ten to twenty minutes until it is thickened slightly. Stash in a pint jar but bring to room temperature to use it.

Makes a scant two cups.

Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.