Red Onion Jam

Red Onion Jam
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red onion jam
Savory jam that pairs well with cheese.

Week after week, we’ve been getting onions in our CSA shares. We know that’s how it works; we get an abundance when there’s an abundance at the farm. But, we still have to do something with all those onions. We thought about making up some Caramelized Onion Chutney — it surely is good, but we thought we might try something new.

Naturally, this isn’t the type of jam you’d use to make a PB&J. instead, it’s a slow-cooked, savory jam made with just a few ingredients. It does take a while, but nearly all that time is spent with the onions simmering; you only need to stop by and give everything a stir every 15 minutes or so. The original version comes from Serious Eats, although we did change it a bit, and corrected the amounts on the ingredients list and the yield.

Red Onion Jam

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Red Onion Jam


  • 1 pound red onions (about 3 medium)
  • 2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 Tbs dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Abbreviated Instructions

Peel and slice onions in half. Cut into thin slices.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add brown sugar, thyme, bay leaf, salt, wine, and balsamic vinegar. Reduce heat to very low and simmer, slightly covered, until liquid is reduced and almost gone, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Ingredient discussion:

Yes, we think white onions will work, especially the sweeter white onions, such as Vidalia. For the wine, well, we don’t know much about red wines, so, when we picked up a bottle to use for this recipe, we checked the Internet for examples of dry red wines, and found Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. With that information in hand, we headed to the store and looked around. Wow, you can spend a lot on a bottle of wine, but we happened to see a deal: 2 bottles for $5.99 mix and match of one particular brand. We picked up a Cabernet Sauvignon and a bottle of Pinot Grigio, mainly because we didn’t want to spend a lot on this untested recipe.

Procedure in detail:

Slice onions. Cut the tops and bottoms off the onions, slice in half lengthwise, and peel off the dry outside skin. It’s often easier to peel an onion after slicing it in half; that’s why we suggest it. Next, slice each half into thin slices of half rings.

adding red wine
Use the wine to help dissolve the brown sugar and distribute the thyme.

Cook. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, stir, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. If you don’t get them tender during this frying stage, they’ll stay a bit crunchy all the way through.

cooking red onion jam
We made a little “hat” out of parchment to prevent spatters and allow steam to escape.

Simmer. Add everything except the pepper and stir. Reduce heat to very low and simmer, partly covered (you can use a parchment “hat,” as we did: take a piece of parchment, cut it into a round about an inch bigger than the pan, then cut hole in the center, about an inch in diameter), until the liquid’s almost gone. It doesn’t seem to get too syrupy, as the original recipe claimed.

red onion jam
When finished, there will be only a little liquid left among the onions.

Season. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. To be honest, we forgot to add the black pepper, but that wasn’t a problem, as this tasted great from the get go. If you remember, feel free to let us know that your version is infinitely better.

red onion jam
Almost exactly 1 and 1/2 cups of savoriness stored for later.

Pack. Remove the bay leaf, pack into clean jars, and store in the refrigerator.

We tried some with bread and cheese — like a mini cheese plate — and this jam was delicious. Very flavorful, but not just of onions. Instead, a nice sweet, savory, and slightly vinegary taste. Wonderful. This would also be a great addition to other mains. We’re thinking of adding a bit to pizza, or using some to top Roasted Cabbage; we’re sure we’ll come up with other dishes that would benefit from this jam, too. Easy to make, and very, very tasty, so this is an easy call: five stars.

Worth the trouble?

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