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March 13, 2009

Caramelizing Onions

A food writer caught a cold. My luck, as the day stuck at home led him to make a big pot of caramelized onions. He wrote about it in the LA Times food section at the end of January, and it sounded so simple I decided to give it a try. Now I'm addicted. I eat them on pizzas, salads, sandwiches, and sometimes just straight, on crackers. I made another big pot yesterday, so I decided to put the recipe up here.

I use my 5 Qt cast iron enameled pot. When I'm done, I bottle into 8 oz jars, keeping one in the fridge and freezing the rest to use as needed.

The recipe calls for 5 pounds brown onions (about 6 large). I use about a bag, or two, depending how much chopping I wish to do.
1/2 cup oil
1 tbsp salt (this I never measure)

1. Cut off the stem and root ends of the onions, then halve them lengthwise and peel away the dried brown skin. Cut the onions lengthwise into one-fourth inch thick slices. As you finish, gather the onions in a large, heavy bottomed pot. A 7-quart pot will work just about perfectly.

2. When all of the onions have been sliced, pour over the oil and the salt and stir to combine. Set over medium heat and cover. Cook until the onions begin to wilt, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes to keep from sticking. As the onions soften, they will reduce in size quite dramatically.

3. After 20 to 30 minutes, the onions will begin to stick to the bottom. Reduce the heat tto low and continue cooking with the pot covered, stirring ever 10 to 15 minutes to keep from sticking.

4. After 45 to 50 minutes, the onions will be silky and will be swimming in moisture. Remove the lid and increase the heat back to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until the moisture has mostly evaporated and the onions have begun to turn golden, about 25 to 30 more minutes.

5. Once again, reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions really begin to brown more deeply, about 2 more hours (this will make 2 1/2 to 3 hours total).

6. At this point, you'll need to watch the onions very carefully, stirring every couple of minutes or so. Cook until the onions have been reduced to a deep, reddish-brown marmalade, watching that they do not dry out, about 1 more hour, making 3 to 4 hours total.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups. These onions will keep tightly covered in the refrigerator for at least a week. Each one-quarter cup: 182 calories; 2 grams protein; 21 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 12 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 704 mg sodium.

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