Thanks to everyone who attended last Tuesday’s canning workshop! Delicious caramelized onion jam was made, safe canning techniques were learned, and a lot of good times were had as well. Lindsay Kearns, our amazing canning facilitator has given me permission to post the caramelized onion jam recipe for anyone who didn’t make it out but wants to try this great recipe.
Caramelized Onion Jam
Yields ~2 litres (8 cups)
24 cups chopped onions (about 12 medium onions, or 7 pounds)
4 cups brown sugar
4 teaspoons pickling salt
3 cups vinegar (white or apple cider or a mix)
Wash 8 – 250 mL jars and sterilize in boiling hot water bath. Keep warm.
Combine onions, sugar, and salt in a large non-reactive pot, and bring to boil over medium heat, stirring frequently until sugar is dissolved.
Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer with occasional stirring, until onions are soft (around 20 minutes).
Uncover pot, increase heat to medium, and stir frequently as onions darken in colour, until they are light brown.
Add vinegar and bring to boil, stirring gently, until mixture has thickened slightly. Turn off heat.
Fetch the jars, and return the hot water bath to boil.
Fill jars, leaving ½” headspace. Wipe rims, apply lids and screw on rings until fingertip tight. Place jars in canner rack, lower into boiling hot water bath, and let process for 15 minutes. After that time is up, turn off heat, let sit for 5 minutes, then careful remove jars to a safe, draft-free location to cool. Listen for the distinctive “ping” of the seals!
Once jars are at room temperature, remove screw bands, and store in a dry, cool, dark space. Eat within a couple of years for best flavour.
I also wanted to talk a bit about canning improvisation, as it was a topic that all the folks at the workshop were really interested in. As you may know, hot water bath canning depends in part on a pH balance on the more acidic side of things to keep your canned goods safe from botulism. Low acid foods are those with a pH value higher than 4.6 (i.e. meat, milk, many fruits, some tomatoes). Because of the danger of not putting enough acid in recipes and getting contaminated foods, lots of people are wary of straying from published recipes. However, a lot of the fun of cooking is getting to figure out new recipes or tailoring existing ones to fit your taste or the contents of your pantry.
Lindsay offered some great suggestions for switching up recipes while maintaining the appropriate pH. The major thing to remember is that you can always alter recipes in favour of more acidic ingredients: if you want to change a fruit or vegetable canning recipe, just switch out a more base ingredient for a more acidic one and you’ll always know you’re heading in a safe direction. Some folks do home pH testing with litmus strips to ensure that their new recipes have a safe level of acidity, but Lindsay cautions against it. She says, “The most important thing I’ve learned is that ph changes over time, while food is in a jar. So it’s simply not enough to test a recipe when you’re canning it: it needs to be tested repeatedly over a year, to be sure it remains safe.” So, if you’re thinking of going all science class on your canning recipes and busting out the litmus strips, make sure you understand that the process of testing is pretty complex. Here is an interesting message board thread on the topic that sheds a bit more light on what happens inside your canning jars after they’re sealed.
I also found this amazing post over at the epic canning blog Food in Jars: How to Can Creatively and Still Be Safe. It contains a ton of helpful suggestions for which sorts of recipes can be safely messed around with (and how), and which recipes are best left alone for safety’s sake. Marisa is an amazing canner/cook and writes a great blog that you should start reading immediately if you haven’t already.