Christmas baking has taken my kitchen by storm, and I’ve already started testing recipes for preserves and chutneys to give as gifts. I’ve made red onion marmalade before, and it has always been very well received. A deliciously sweet, yet savoury preserve that is perfect in cheese sandwiches, or dolloped on your morning eggs.
This recipe is heavily based on one from BBC Good Food. I’ve changed it about a bit, as you’ll see below. I got 5 small jars from that batch, all roughly half lb size. So you should get 2 x 1 lb jars with maybe some over. I calculate that this batch cost about €9.00 to make, sourcing the wine and port in Aldi. Not a cheap preserve to make, but much cheaper than to buy in the supermarket. You also get the inner smugness of knowing you created your luscious preserve yourself.
What You Need:
2 kg red onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
140g dark brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh thyme
pinch chilli flakes – I only used a small pinch, next time I’ll add more to give a bigger chilli kick
750ml red wine – don’t break out your best vino for this. I picked up a bottle of red for €3.99 in Aldi.
200ml red wine vinegar
200ml port – again, I used my Aldi port, €6.49 for 750ml
What To Do:
Heat a good splash of rapeseed oil (or olive oil) in a heavy-bottomed pot on a medium heat. Add the sliced onions, garlic, sugar, thyme and chilli flakes. Give it a good stir, reduce the heat and allow to simmer, stirring every now and then, until all the juices from the onions have reduced. This could take an hour or more.
At this stage, the onions will be very soft and the liquid will have reduced so much that the onions are almost starting to stick. Add the wine, red wine vinegar and port and simmer again until well reduced. It’s ready when drawing a spoon across the bottom of the pot leaves a path that is quickly filled with syrupy juice. Now, have a taste. If you find it’s too sweet, add a bit more vinegar and reduce. Not sweet enough? Add a squeeze of honey.
Wash some glass jars, dry well and place in a 150C oven for 10-15 minutes. Throw the lids into a bowl and cover with boiling water. When the marmalade is ready, spoon carefully into the hot jars, covering straight away with a lid. As it cools, a vacuum is formed in the jar (so if you have lids with the “buttons” on top, the button will be drawn in).
The biggest hassle with this is slicing all the onions (and all the induced weeping and sniffing), but it’s well worth the effort. The onions will simmer away happily as you carry on doing other things, just be sure to give it a stir every now and then. Also, I found the timings on the BBC site were way out – the whole thing took about 3 hours from slicing the first onion to spooning into the jars.
I leave out the butter in the original recipe as I find that as the marmalade cools, the butter hardens and can be seen through the jar, which is not very appetising (especially if you’re giving this as a gift!). I also reduced the amount of vinegar in the original recipe as I don’t like a sharp taste off the marmalade. You can add more vinegar though if you prefer.