Saturday, November 1, 2014

Creamy Sweet Onions -- Tapping into the experiences of others

One category of cookbooks is the fundraiser book, where the members of a group contribute their favorite recipes.  This compilation is bound and sold to raise money for the group.  Quite often the group is a women's club or church organization.

I have several of these in my collection and I prize them for three reasons:  some have the names of people I know, some have recipes I've loved and lost in the past, and every one of them contains tried-and-true recipes.  Consider that these people know each other and tend to buy the books for themselves, too.  No one is going to submit a recipe that isn't proven wonderful!

The style of recipes depends on the age of the book.  You can see the shift in ingredient preferences over the decades, from canned soup casseroles to gelatin desserts to gluten-free anything.  You'll often find "throwbacks"; these are recipes that have been handed down over several generations of cooks and cherished despite current taste or health trends.

I also like the variations on recipes with which I am familiar, like three-bean salad and seven layer dip.  It is fun to see what others have done to substitute ingredients they were missing or just to enjoy a twist in the usual flavor.

I was attending a neighborhood potluck barbecue and felt like bringing something different, so I turned to my ladies' group collection.  I chose the Washington Stars Quilt Guild 10th Anniversary Cookbook, published in 2009 out of Olympia, Washington.  Are these recipes historical?  Probably not but I think this qualifies as General Foodie Fun (salute!).

The hosts were providing the burgers and hot dogs with condiments.  I knew many people would bring desserts and potato chips, so I focused on a side dish.  My choice was submitted by Pat Umino with an end note, "It was very popular at our potlucks."  How could I go wrong?

Creamy Sweet Onions (page 67)

5 large onions, white (sweet)
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
4 teaspoons salt
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon celery salt *
salt and pepper to taste

*The body of the recipe calls for celery seed, which is what I used.

I switched to celery seed after I took this picture.
Thinly slice the onions and place in a large bowl.  In a saucepan combine the sugar, cider vinegar, water, and salt.  Bring to a boil and then pour over the sliced onions.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Drain onions, discarding the liquid.  In a bowl combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, celery seed, salt and pepper, mix well.  Add the drained onions and toss to coat.

My Notes

My onions must have been very large because three of them sliced filled my large bowl.  I stopped there.  Mine were designated as white onions but not labeled as "sweet".  That did not turn out to be a problem.

Boiling the vinegar mix made an onion-scented kitchen smell very strong indeed.  I let the bowl of onions with liquid cool a bit before I covered it and placed it in the refrigerator.  Basically you are pickling the onions!

The next day, a few hours before the party, I drained the onions, mixed the sauce, and loved the contrast of the celery seeds against the white onions and white sauce.

Just before stirring
The Verdict

Yes, it was a hit!  I noticed that the people who like peppers, chilies, and other strong-flavored foods liked it the most.  One woman said she put it on top of her hamburger patty as a condiment.  I didn't label what it was so people were guessing a noodle salad at first, then they thought coleslaw, and then they realized it was onions.

I would put this in the category of "onion coleslaw".  The creamy sauce mixes with the little bit of vinegar pickling liquid that clings to the drained onions.  Adding the celery seed just pushes that creamy-sweet-sour mixture right into the coleslaw range.  The onion flavor became milder with the pickling process yet still retained some crunchiness that made it exciting to eat.

I liked it!  It isn't my favorite because it was a stronger onion taste than I usually seek out but I would eat it again.  If I were to make it more for me, I would use half onions and half cabbage.  Of course I like sauerkraut and pickled red cabbage, too, so that would be a bonus for me.

Success!  Tasty!  Give it a try!

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