Blog Post By Drew Erickson
The history of onions dates back to our time as hunters and gatherers. The nutritious bulb of a plant related to lilies, it is one of the first plants cultivated by humans, it is an ingredient in thousands of recipes, and our bees love to graze its showy white puffball flowers.
This year on Clif Family Farm “the onion” has taken center stage. In an effort to make our home grown Savory Onion Jam we grew and recently harvested roughly 3000 pounds of red and yellow sweet onions.
A member of the allium family, onions begin their life as a seed the size of a pinhead. These tiny seeds are planted and nurtured in greenhouses until they have become shoots a bit smaller than a scallion. These shoots are then carefully transplanted into the field using a technique that sweeps the roots down, giving the baby plants their best chance for survival. Then, for several months in the spring they mature in our rich mountain soil, absorbing nutrients and developing their pungent aroma. Finally, the flowering stock rising from the bulb is snapped at the base, and the onion begins to cure for storage.
As soon as the stock has dried the onions are dug from the ground and further dried in a shady location. Finally, it’s off to processing where they are thinly sliced, placed in a pot, and caramelized for hours before they are canned for storage.
With all the onions that don’t go to processing, along with cippolinis, leeks, chives, and garlic grown on our farm, it got me wondering why alliums are so often given supporting roles. Like the actor John Turturro, they are good but usually the side character. So here are a few leading roles for the onion…great Julia Roberts/Tom Hanks type roles!
Onion Butter Sandwiches
• Slice sweet onions very thinly, using a mandolin if you have one.
• Slice your favorite bread into thin slices.
• Butter one side of each slice.
• Add a thin layer of onions to half the slices and top with Jacobsen Sea salt.
• Build the sandwich and pair with our 2015 Dry Gewürztraminer
Randy’s Onion Soup
The night before, make beef stock by simmering the following overnight:
• Roasted beef bones
• Roasted onions, carrots, and celery
• White wine, good enough to drink a glass
The next day:
• Strain and separate stock.
• Slice a good amount of onions.
• Cook onions in an enamel pot on high until soft and sweet.
• Add beef stock to cooked onions and salt to taste.
• Top stale sourdough bread with Gruyere and melt cheese under broiler.
• Add cheese breads to individual bowls of soup just before serving.
• Pair with our 2013 Gary’s Improv Zinfandel
Gary’s Onion Tart
• Prepare tart crust in removable bottom pan.
• Slice several sweet onions thin.
• Caramelize onions.
• Fill tart crust with caramelized onions and bake until crust is a chestnut brown color.
• Drizzle with Clif Family olive oil and sprinkle with Jacobsen salt.
• Pair with our 2014 Mendocino Grenache.