I love the idea of giving food as holiday gifts. I mean, I love gifts. I love food. Putting them together = pure genius. Sure, sweet things like sugar cookies and candied nuts are always welcome treats, but a smidge expected, no? Let us not exclude savory tastes! Also, and you in sunnier climes are spared this consideration, but is is twelve degrees outside. I can think of nothing worse than leaving the house (stop there; that, too, is true) for a mall overcrowded with shoppers definitively not in the holiday spirit. But drinking hot cocoa in my own home, with carols playing in the background and a pot of onion jam simmering along on the stove? That also happens to warm the entire downstairs? Now that I can get behind.
This is an old family recipe, and by “old family recipe,” I mean “my mom got the recipe card out of French Elle magazine in the 80’s and makes it every Thanksgiving.” So there you have it. Generation to generation. True to form, we brought a bowl of these onions for last Thursday’s feast, along with mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, apple pie, pecan pie, cranberry sauce, and creamy baked oysters. (Feast, ahoy!) In case you’re wondering, I like to load up my turkey with cranberry sauce, AND the onions, AND gravy, so what now?
It’s called “Onion Jam,” actually “Onion Jam from Harika,” but I don’t know what Harika is, so let’s leave that part out. It sounds North African? which makes sense? But let’s leave that aside. French Elle advises that this perfectly accompanies duck, as well as grilled or roasted meats, but as I have been known to eat it by the spoonful, I find great fault with this limited application. Don’t box yourself in! Pair this with absolutely any kind of meat, spoon it over little toasts with creamed mushrooms or pâté, top off your latkes, heap some into a pot pie or casserole — I’m sure you’ll find dozens of uses. It tastes just like French onion soup, only richer and a teensy bit tart. I know you and, more importantly, your lucky recipient, will love it.
But do save some for yourself, mmkay?
(With thanks to Mom and French Elle)
- 1 stick of butter
- around 3 pounds of onions
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup creme de cassis
- salt and pepper
Peel the onions, cut them in half, and slice them into little half-rings. If you have a food processor, thank your lucky stars and get out that slicing attachment.
Melt butter in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot (a Staub or Le Creuset if you have it). Add the onions, salt, and pepper and cook over a low flame for 20 minutes, until they soften without changing color. When transparent, add the sugar. Let cook 8 to 10 minutes. Add the vinegar, wine, and creme de cassis. Cook over a moderate flame for an hour, until brown, sweet, and delicious.
To preserve for gifts, follow directions here (but basically, boil the jars, and for heaven’s sake don’t touch the insides afterwards): Canning How To