Friday, September 23, 2011

Onion Jam with Balsamic Cherries

My love of jam is not limited by the jewel tones of plump fruit enrobed in sweet syrup. One of my favorites, in fact, is Stonewall Kitchen's savory Roasted Garlic Onion Jam. While I doubt he ever tasted it, each time I indulge I find myself thinking of my dad, who could eat a raw onion like an apple and considered garlic salt the ideal seasoning.

Though easily found, and delicious on everything from crackers to grilled burgers with melty blue cheese, I cringe at paying $7.95 per jar of jam. Each time I scrape out the last bits, I think to myself, "I could make this." Well, I finally did. And if I say so myself, it's pretty damn good.

I hunted online for an onion jam recipe that looked reasonably similar but didn't find anything. This version struck me as a solid base, however. I tweaked it by adding both black cherry balsamic vinegar and dried cherries, as well as the piney punch of fresh rosemary. It grows in abundance by our sunny sidewalk, making visits to our mailbox an enjoyably fragrant experience.

1 large head garlic, roasted
2 tsp. olive oil, divided
8 cups Vidalia onion, diced
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced, plus a 4-inch stalk, whole
salt, pepper
1 3/4 cups natural-style apple juice
3/4 cup apple cider
1/2 cup black cherry balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 pkg. dry pectin (such as Sure-Jell)

Trim point from head of garlic to reveal flat surface with moist white cloves. Place atop a sheet of foil and drizzle with 1 tsp. olive oil. Seal and roast in 375 degree oven about 40 minutes or until tender. Unfurl foil wrap to cool, then squeeze to release soft cloves.

Pour 1/2 cup cherry balsamic into a microwave-safe cup. Add chopped cherries, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 45 seconds. Set aside.

Using a large pot with a heavy bottom, saute onion and fresh minced garlic in remaining 1 tsp. olive oil over medium heat. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, add minced rosemary and one intact bushy stem; stir well and cover for about 5 minutes. Uncover, stir again and roasted garlic. Simmer another 5 minutes or until onions are soft and translucent.

Increase heat to medium high. Add apple juice and cider vinegar, cherry balsamic and dried cherries; simmer about 5 minutes more. Add 1/4 cup sugar and package of dry pectin; stir to ensure both are well incorporated. Bring to a boil and let bubble 3-4 minutes.

Add remaining sugars and boil hard, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until "jammy." Test by placing spoonful on plate tucked into the freezer for a minute or two. If still runny and loose, give it a few more minutes.

When ready, pluck out rosemary stem and set aside. Skim any foam then ladle jam into hot, sterilized jars with fresh lids. Process in water bath about 10 minutes, then allow to cool fully.

My first batch made six delicious half pints but I waited several  nervous days to for it to fully "set up." Not sure what I did differently, but the second try yielded seven half pints that were firm when cool.

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