Friday, August 31, 2012

Keeping Onions

To the shriveled and parched,

Onions keep quite well in cold storage, when they aren't sold in a grocery store at two years old.

However, you may have onions that need to be dealt with or used up quickly.  You may have no room for cold storage or, like us, you may be in a region with long, humid summers and can't really implement that spare room for cold storage.  In the Pacific Northwest, we just used a spare bedroom without the heat on - it was chilly in there ten months out of the year!  We kept onions in our cold storage for six months.  No such luck in Virginia, where the coolest recess of the house is still a soggy 85 degrees at best.

So, we turn to other methods of storage for now: frozen dice, onion flakes, and onion powder,

At the food auction, we got a half-bushel of onions for $7.  A half-bushel of onions - bushels are measured in volume, not weight - is about 25 pounds.

I reserved a few in skins for use with cooking over the next few weeks, but the rest we peeled.

My mom first came up with this idea, which I used on a bushel sack of onions a year or two ago:  We chopped them coarsely, and put through a food processor for a few seconds to achieve a fine dice.  If you have a larger food processor, this goes much more quickly!

We decided to store them in food-saver bags since I won't be using them until the dead of winter, several months hence.  We packed onion in measured cupfuls into the bags and labeled them, then put them in the freezer to freeze solid.  Once they were frozen, we sealed the bags and returned them to the freezer.  Hastily bringing together a big pot of soup is a snap with already-diced onions.

This foodsaver has an option so I can freeze items with liquid, but it still sucks
out some of the liquid so I decided to freeze first, then seal.
We had a watchful supervisor ... 
While we were chopping and dicing, we also cut a few onions into wide slices, about a half-inch thick.  We broke these up a little and spread them on a food dehydrator.  Drying time depends on your food dehydrator - this is an oldie, with weak fans, and took about 24 hours +.  It is also soakingly humid here, and so I needed to deal with them immediately after turning off the dehydrator, or they'd be soft again!

Once again under the watchful eye ... 
After they were crispy-dry, I put them through the food processor.  You can chop as fine or as coarse as you like.  I will use these in soups, dips, and when cooking meats during the deepest parts of winter when onions are unavailable for purchase, and any cold stores (if I am so lucky as to have any cold stores!) are depleted.

Eight trays of onions produced a tightly packed pint, plus a quarter-pint.  If your dried food has more than 70% of the moisture removed, you can store without refrigeration or freezing, without fear of mold.  Even though our freezer space is limited, I put these jars in the freezer for storage; since it took eight trays of onions to fill these jars, I am still consolidating and saving freezer space.  Previously, after drying onions I transferred them into foodsaver bags for freezer storage, because I only had a side-by-side fridge and freezer and needed everything to be narrow and thin!

You can put them through a coffee grinder, if you like, to make onion powder.  Of course, the coffee grinder must be clean and dry.

Just a few seconds will do the trick.

With any luck, there will be more onions at the next food auction and I can dry and freeze enough for the whole winter!  We also pickle a good quantity of onions and use them in potato salad, tuna salad, other cold dishes and as snacks.

How do you preserve and store onions?

Mrs H

This post is linked up at Monday Mania and Real Food Wednesdays, two fabulous resources for you!



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