Sunday, October 20, 2013

Black Onion Jam

Sorry about the changes going on with the layout of my blog. I'm fiddling around with some things, so for now this is what it will look like.

AnyWHO, I want to tell you about this FABULOUS onion jam that I made a couple of weeks ago. I stumbled across it at Gina's blog, Lindsey's Luscious, earlier this year and it really peaked my interest. It originally came from The Fabulous Beekman Brother's, which currently have a show on the cooking channel on Sundays. I used to love watching them when it was just them trying to make a living on a farm (HGTV?), but now they are famous and have their own cooking show.

So, I checked out their jam and the ingredients and snooped a little on the internet to see if anyone was canning it. I saw a few places where people mentioned canning this jam, but no one had actually jumped the gun (I would soon to find out why). It certainly had enough vinegar to be safe to can, so I thought, "Why not?"

I made a trial batch by doubling the original recipe thinking that I would at least get a handful of half-pints. Afterwards, I barely had enough to make 1 whole pint and this gave me a big clue as to why no one had bothered making more. This recipe takes A LOT of onions and it's A LOT of work to make enough worthwhile for canning. I went into a 3-day ordeal to make 6 1/2 pints of this jam and I wouldn't do it again...I'll explain why later.

The trial batch I made was sublime. I cannot explain how delicious this jam is with a good sharp cheddar on a cracker. Some people have been using this jam on gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and just the thought of it makes my mouth water. I just got a panini press, so this is definitely happening soon. My husband and I put it on a grilled hamburger with some crumbled Stilton blue cheese; we called it a Black and Blue Burger.

Sooo, if you're gutsy enough, have 3 days to kill, and about $70 to blow, you can make a larger version of this recipe for canning. I ended up using 42 cups of onions, which took over 12 hours to caramelize. Then, I added 13 cups of balsamic vinegar ($$), which took another 6 hours to reduce down, and then added 3 cups of maple syrup ($$), which took more time to reduce down...well, you get the point. This gave me 6 1/2 pints.

On top of that, I don't think the bigger batch came out nearly as good as the small, trial batch (I think the onions overcooked). So, do yourself and your wallet a favor and make a  batch to keep in your refrigerator.  The end result will be tastier and a little of this jam goes a long way.

Black Onion Jam 
Recipe Source: The Fabulous Beekman Brothers
Note: My recipe is doubled from the original
Makes 1 pint

6 cups of sweet onions, roughly chopped
2 T butter
2 cups balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Melt butter in a medium-sized stockpot over medium heat; add onions and slowly caramelize them till they are golden and sweet. Add balsamic vinegar to onions and reduce down until syrupy (about 1 hour). Add maple syrup, thyme, salt and pepper and cook another hour until thick and jammy. Spoon into a pint jar and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.

Here are some other ways to use the jam:

An appetizer:

  • Slice some thin slices of a baguette and toast until golden brown
  • Top a baguette slice with goat cheese
  • Top with a couple of pear slices
  • Top with a dollop of onion jam (not too much – it’s intense)

  • Use a puff pastry – take 1 sheet and brush with olive oil
  • Sprinkle with your favorite herbs (I use rosemary and thyme)
  • Spread with onion jam
  • Top with chunks of soft goat cheese
  • Top with other sheet of puff pastry 
  • Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with more herbs and coarse salt
  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes (until golden brown)

Use with pork, in a stew, on a burger or a sandwich (great with turkey and melted cheese)

A companion to a salad (or an appetizer). Try in an omelet – farm fresh eggs, goat cheese, tomato, spinach and onion jam.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Great Pumpkin Beer Taste Off - 2013 (Round 2)

Okay, round two of the Pumpkin Beer Taste Off took place last weekend. This round was much more interesting than last time…

Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale – Smuttynose Brewing , Portsmith, NH
We were hopeful for this pumpkin beer, as the brewing company is in New Hampshire, which is a great state to be in for all things fall. This beer had a nice, gold pilsner color, but no spice aroma at all. It smelled and tasted very hoppy without any spice/pumpkin anywhere. As a general pilsner or pale ale, this was a good beer, but it didn’t do anything for us for our pumpkin beer quest.

Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat – Shock Top Brewing, St. Lois, MO
Of all the beers we lined up for this round, I expected this beer to be the least “pumpkiny,” but we were very pleasantly surprised. The color was a little darker than a pilsner and there was no spice/pumpkin in the nose, but the taste knocked our socks off! This beer was VERY smooth, with very little hops and had a very, very slight pumpkin spice profile. We found this beer to be a very good and easy to drink. I would serve this beer at a fall BBQ or backyard pumpkin carving picnic in a heartbeat.

Pumpkick, New Belgium – New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, CO
We took a little break between these last two beers and the first two, as we wanted our taste buds to have a little break. This beer made us suspicious, as it not only had specific instructions on how to pour the beer, it also stated that it was brewed with “pumpkin juice and cranberry juice”. Hmmmm…

The pouring “instructions” said to pour ¾ of the beer into a chilled, slanted beer glass, and then swirl the last 2 inches of the beer in the bottle to distribute the spices evenly before pouring the rest.  I have to admit I was curious how this would turn out.

The color was a gold pilsner and there was no spice nose to it, but the taste was WTH?? Imagine beer mixed with cranberries and lemongrass…ugh. This might be a good, summer beer, but definitely not a fall-themed pumpkin beer…there’s too much citrus going on and they totally missed the mark on this one.

Alewerks Pumpkin Ale – Alewerks Brewing Co., Williamsburg, VA
Back to our homies in Virginia, we had high hopes for this beer and we weren’t disappointed! This beer had a nice, amber lager color with a very slight hint of pumpkin/spice. The taste was a very nice honey and spice profile, although it tasted like it had a higher-than-average alcohol content (not always a bad thing!). It was a very rich beer and of all the pumpkin beers we’ve tried, this one came the closest to our beloved Shipyard. This one will be close for a final contender.

Okay, so that’s it for this round. Like I said earlier, this one was much more interesting than the last one; we found some good ones! Stay tuned till next time!

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