onion-garlic jam

Inspired by Ximena and redfox, I started making batches of onion-garlic jam.

Whoo doggies, this is good stuff, miles better than the onion jam I used to buy, and once you’ve sliced all the onions, it can be knocked off on any evening you’re staying in. Just wander by the pan once in a while to add ingredients and stir, and otherwise let it bubble away happily until it’s time to scoop it into little glass pots. We’ll get to the recipe in a minute; first, let me tell you why you want to make this at the first opportunity.

Onion-garlic jam makes a simple and sexy last-minute cocktail snack: alongside a stack of crackers on a pretty plate, pair a big glob of onion-garlic jam with a generous blob of softened cream cheese or yogurt cheese.

Smear schmear a cracker with cream cheese, then top it with jam. Each bite is a little sensory overload: creamy, crispy, buttery, tangy, pungent, and sweet. Goat cheese and homemade crackers doll this up for your uptown friends, but truthfully, cream cheese and Ritz suit onion-garlic jam just fine. Onion-garlic jam isn’t snooty like some hors d’oeuvres we could mention. Onion-garlic jam also makes a fine addition to sandwiches: tomato and avocado; cheese (grilled or otherwise); cream cheese with anything; grilled vegetables and bean spread.

Biscuits or popovers with this suave, tangy jam will smarten up one of our favorite winter suppers: potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots tossed lightly in olive oil, dusted with salt, pepper, and chili powder, then roasted until they’re soft in the center, caramelized around the edges. A pot of onion-garlic jam and a dish of goat cheese alongside a basket of hot, flaky biscuits would make me happy to serve this menu to guests.

For meat-eaters, its complexity is just the thing to complement the salty smack of ham, or to punch up chicken or turkey. As a relish alongside a grilled chicken breast or a lamb chop, onion-garlic jam elevates an after-work dinner into something a bit special.

As redfox points out, it’s a marvelous addition to scrambled eggs. I imagine it would make a superlative omelette filling, or as addition to, say, mushroom crepes.

As the latest batch bubbles away, wafting its irresistable savor through the apartment, I’m planning to try:
– mashed sweet potatoes seasoned with salt, pepper, and a sliver of butter, topped with a blob of onion-garlic jam. I dread the gussied-up sweet potato monstrosities that haunt so many holiday tables, with their brown sugar and citrus or marshmallow, and always drenched with butter. To my palate, sweet potatoes pack so much flavor and such a luxurious mouthfeel that they’re best when treated simply. But this might be a fine compromise: a bit sweet, a bit sharp, a rich flavor that doesn’t obscure the flavor of the sweet potatoes themselves.
– baked potatoes with sour cream and onion-garlic jam.
– potato pancakes topped with onion-garlic jam.
– frittata a la anything at all topped with onion-garlic jam.

Now, who wants to give me a recipe for hot pepper jelly?


You’ll see that my recipe differs from Ximena’s, using pantry items I keep on hand. I used kirsch to approximate the fruity sweetness of cassis, and apple cider vinegar because I was out of sherry vinegar (and, again, to provide some fruity undertones). I used a cheap but drinkable box wine, and reduced the butter and oil used in the pan.

onion-garlic jam
four big onions (at least one red onion), sliced thin across the grain*
a dozen or so cloves of garlic, peeled and slivered
1 tsp butter
2 tsp olive oil
heaping 1/2 c. white sugar
scant 2 tsp kosher salt
2 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 cup red wine
1 TBS kirsch
generous grindings of black pepper
a sprinkle of chili powder

In heavy non-reactive pan, heat butter and oil over medium flame until bubbling subsides. Add sliced onions, garlic, and salt; toss. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat five minutes or until onions begin to soften.

Add sugar; cover and at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Be sure the bottom doesn’t burn.

The onions will be a glazed, syrupy mass. Stir in liquids and remaining seasonings. Cook uncovered an additional 30 minutes or until onions are quite soft and dark and liquid is reduced to a sparse, sticky glaze.

Decant into sterilized jars; cover lightly and cool. Then cap tightly and refrigerate. This unprocessed jam is not shelf-stable.
* batch 2: I used two large red, two small yellow & 6-8 cloves garlic, sliced; this yielded two half-pint jars of jam with several spoonfuls left over.

batch 3: I used two large red onions, five small yellow, and 12 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped. This almost filled two jars, one 12 ounces and the other 8 ounces. Now that I’ve tried using thick-cut garlic, I know it’s better to sliver it.

Photos of the jarred jam coming, I promise. We have no hot water today, which shifted all my priorities, putting “stand around on the porch trying to photograph jars of jam” slightly below “clean your vile self any which way you can.”

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7 thoughts on “onion-garlic jam

  1. HI. I´m so glad you like it, it´s one of the best things ever, I think. I´ll try the garlic addition next batch.
    It sounds like all your options are vegetarian, so I won´t point out the obvious and say it´s even cloudier and better with sausages or foie d´oie.

  2. Ximena, thanks for sparking my imagination and for providing the original recipe! For years, I’ve wanted to tackle making onion jam, and your marvelous description made it so easy. It’s fantastically good, a vast improvement in complexity and intensity over the onion jam I can buy locally. I think the garlic is a good addition, but this last batch has taught me to sliver it, not leave it in large chunks.
    Your suggestions sound dreamy.

  3. I have SLS’s recipe for hot pepper jelly, which I thought was in the Cooking Clips book you made for me when you were but a tiny tike. It wasn’t there, though, so I’ll keep looking. It was probably MrsH’s recipe originally.
    Your writing keeps getting better and better, and it always makes me hungry. Bless you for knowing the difference between its and it’s. So many people don’t!
    The 11-29 post makes me proud to know you. Every teenage girl should see it. I’ll start with mine.

  4. P.S. I like relish!
    P.P.S. My friend Evalin-you know her I think- makes this in a low oven in a giant roasting pan so you can make a huge batch and never worry about burning it.

  5. I am totally making this very soon. Thanks for posting that recipe. I am suddenly dreaming of the serving suggestion involving cream cheese.

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