Saturday, 14 April 2018

Jamming it Up

It started out as an adventure, chasing a rabbit called Marmalade down the rabbit trails of my mind. That was last week's blog. It ended up with 10 jars of onion marmalade sitting on my counter. And how did that happen? Well, as they say, “thereby hangs a tale” (or tail?)

Over coffee with friends, I shared my ponderings about making onion jam for my brother-in-law. Was  it really worth the trouble – cutting up kilos of onions, stirring for hours, bottling and processing. They looked at me like I was one onion short of a basketful. “Surely you’re not going to do that!” they said. “And if you are, he must be some brother-in-law.” Well, yes, he is, but there’s more at work here.

What it’s all about is that I have terrier instincts.

Once I’m on the scent of something, it’s hard to stop me. (Just ask the RS.) Onion marmalade was the golden grail, shining in the distance. I had to hunt it down, to see what it was like.

If Martha can do can I. Simple, right?
First step: find a good recipe. I checked with faithful Google. One recipe mentioned cooking it up in a slow cooker, eliminating the hours of stirring. Easy-peasy, they said. It was another thing to find a definitive ingredient list. Red onions? Sweet onions? Sure, whatever. One recipe matched onions and sugar one to one by weight. Another called for 100 gm. sugar to 3 kg. onions. One called for wine and vinegar, another for paprika and mustard seeds. It seemed as though, whatever you decided, you couldn’t go wrong. So, I decided, like Frank Sinatra, to just do it my way, which is making it up as I go along. That’s what a terrier does, right?

Next step: buy the onions. Well, now, 3 lbs/$2.97, or 10 lbs./$4.97? I’m Dutch, so what do you think I did? Right. The big bag came home with me. The corollary to a big bag of onions is a big batch of jam. The corollary to that is a big cooking pot, lots of jars, lids, etc. Check. Oh, oh, I should have bought sugar, too. Oh, well, probably brown sugar will do if I run out of white. Maybe even corn syrup. Terriers are not all that fussy.

And then I make my first mistake (if you don’t count deciding to do it, and forgetting to buy sugar the first mistakes). I had decided to go with the slow cooker method, but I didn’t get started till 2 p.m. Would it be done by the time I wanted to go to bed? Oh, well, I’d use the high setting on the slow cooker. We shall see what we shall see. Easy peasy, remember? You can’t go wrong. Terriers aren’t so great at planning ahead.

Down from the high shelf came the Cuisinart, only used when I get similar hair-brained ideas. Al watched the tears rolling down my cheeks as I peeled the first onion – only 9 left to go. He took pity on me. Now you might think this is above and beyond the call of duty, and it is, but not quite as masochistic as you might think. He’s been known to chop 10 pounds of onions by hand at the local soup kitchen with not a single tear burning his eye. With Al at the controls of the Cuisinart, the job was done in jig time. What a guy! Love him.

It turns out that 10 onions is way too much for one crock pot. Out came the second one. Well, if I’m making two batches, I should try two flavours – one simple sweet one with a bit of brown sugar, one with a bit of bite and spice with the addition of paprika, mustard, vinegar, and more sugar. Why keep it simple if you can make it complicated?

The hours ticked by, and the kitchen smelled like simmering onions, not a bad smell on a cold rainy day. But by 11 p.m., my onion marmalade looked more like onion soup. I turned the heat down, and went to bed. One online cook had said that’s what she did when it took longer than planned to become jammy.

Are you getting tired of this blow-by-blow cooking adventure story? I am. So I’ll skip over the part about getting up at 12:30 a.m. and turning the crock pots off to quell the bad dreams I was having about the house burning down. And I won’t go into details about additional spices and vinegars and sugars that needed to be added to make the jams tasty and cover up the musty paprika smell.

Ras-el Hanut is a Turkish spice mix. It had been sitting in my cupboards just waiting for a dish in which it could make an appearance.
Nor will I wail about finally having to resort to stove-top cooking to get it to jammy consistency -- 22 hours after I started this gig. Turns out slow cookers are not so easy-peasy after all.

Here’s the end result:

Oh, and this:

Al came home just as I was leaving to run some errands. I said I’d do the dishes later. When I came home a few hours later, this is what I found:

Like I said, he’s a keeper. He taste-tested the sweet onion jam on a slice of bread and said it was very good. I hope Don thinks so too.

No comments:

Post a Comment