Caramelized onions are for more than French onion soup, which is good…in fact very good, but add dried fruit, in this case mission figs, cranberries, some ruby port and other nice things, to those onions and you’ve created The Little Condiment that Could make dirt taste good! Since The Goddess has been on a bleu cheese kick recently (we’ll save dirt for another time, okay?), she decided this “jam” was just what she needed for a grilled bleu cheese sandwich. Life is STILL good. Caramelizing onions takes more patience than effort. If you want quite a bit of this jam, then you’ll need to double or triple this recipe. One large onion cooks down to almost nothing, so plan accordingly. I’m not certain you can have too much of this, given how good it is on a burger and summer is upon us.
This is a great way to learn to “hear” food when you’re cooking. When you first add the onions to the hot pan and hot oil, they sizzle. No surprise there, right? Then, you lower the heat and cover the pan and all of a sudden you don’t hear the sizzle anymore. You don’t really hear too much of anything. Then, when the water in the onions has evaporated and the sugars are present, you’ll start to hear the sizzle again. This is when caramelization happens. And you need to keep a watchful eye on them, so they don’t burn. Remember to use a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a lid and LOW heat. There’s a very fine line between caramel and carbon! I set a timer; it’s easier and it’s safer, but you still need to be watchful.
Caramelized Onion and Dried Fruit Jam
- 1 very large onion, thinly sliced and cut in quarters
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 8 dried mission figs, sliced
- 3 tablespoon dried cranberries
- 3 tablespoons Ruby Port
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (or more as needed)
Place the oil in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat; add the onion, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for 4 minutes; (set a timer for each block of time). Stir well, cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for an additional 6 minutes. Stir, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the figs, cranberries, port and lemon juice; cover and cook for 3 minutes. Add the water; cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add a large pinch of salt (start with 1/8 teaspoon) and the vinegars; cook for 3-5 minutes or until the mixture no longer has any liquid. Cool to room temperature. This is almost a thick paste when ready. If you want it to be less thick, add a teaspoon of water, until it’s the desired consistency. The jam will thicken as it sets. Can be made several days ahead; cover and refrigerate until needed.
NOTE: Be aware, after the first 7 or 8 minutes of cooking, watch that the onions don’t burn. I usually do set a timer, as it’s pretty easy to forget. If you’re afraid the onions will burn, add 2 teaspoons of water, then cover and continue to cook as directed. You can double and triple this, but you’ll probably need to decrease the water a bit. If you wish, you may dice 2-3 slices of bacon, fry it in the pan and when it’s about 1/2 done, pour off all but 2 tablespoon of fat, add the onion and continue with the recipe.
Some Ways to Use the Jam:
- For Grilled Cheese: Smear 2-3 tablespoons of the “jam” on a slice of good bread, top with slices of brie or cheddar or creamy, bleu cheese (or a mixture…why not?) and another slice of bread. Grill until the cheese melts and the bread toasts. Let stand for a couple of minutes; slice in half and serve.
- For Hamburgers: Place 2 tablespoons of the “jam” on a cooked hamburger patty, top with a slice of cheese, if you wish, and enjoy.
- For Pizza: Grill one side of a round of pizza dough. Smear the grilled side with some of the “jam”. Top with crumbled bleu cheese, cooked bacon bits and chopped, fresh rosemary. Grill until the bottom is crisp and the cheese is melty.
This jam is pretty decent, with the pan in one hand and a spoon in the other!
Caramelized Onion and Dried Fruit Jam Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All rights reserved.
I’m going to show you the progression of the onions nearing Nirvana and reaching that blissful moment of perfection: This is where we started out. Totally white and still crunchy. This is at the 4 minute stage. You can see the water released by the onions has evaporated and the sugars are beginning to caramelize. This is the 10 minutes stage. See, the onions have a deeper color and are more caramelized…yummy! This is the 15 minutes stage. Now it’s getting interesting. Some of the onions have broken down and they are all getting softer, as well as caramelizing still more.This is the perfect and final stage for the onions. This is probably where you would stop if you were going to make French onion soup. But now, we add the port, lemon juice and we’re about to add the figs. This is the final cooking phase. The figs and cranberries have been added and have been cooking together over LOW heat for about 8-10 minutes. This is where you need to really, really keep an eye on the pot. It can burn so very quickly; keep the burner on LOW!! Low and slow…that’s the way to go. Do make certain you remember to add a pinch of salt at the end.
I made a grilled cheese using, yeah, bleu cheese, Moody Blue® cheese, in fact. Figs and cheese are just amazing together, particularly bleu cheese. Throw in some ruby port (and some really nice melty cheese I get at the Polish deli), delicious. Tonight, I’m smearing this on a piece of flat bread, adding some bleu cheese, fresh rosemary and a few slices of Bing cherries. I let you know how that works. Life is indeed, very good…and delicious!