One of my top fave kitchen projects is filling up my pantry with as much home grown, farmers market, roadside stand fruits and veggies as possible. Something all bottled up in a little jar to take you back to a time and place is truly a treasure. Late Spring, early Summer I traditionally have a group of my bestie's over to make jam, jellies, chutney, pickled something or other, really whatever inspires them. Each of us picks something special they want to make and then it's off to the races! It's quite a production, but in the end we all swap out a few jars and you end up with a beautiful array of goodness. There is something to be said about having a lazy Saturday morning, grabbing some pickled dilly beans from the pantry and whipping up a Bloody Mary or dipping into a jar of beautiful Rainer cherry jam with vanilla beans to dollop on top of some brownies.
Now that there is a chill in the air and our days are getting shorter I've been day dreaming about slow cooked dinners, braises and all the earthy dishes that come with Fall and Winter. I especially love all the different accouterments you can serve with them, chutney, compotes, mustard, the possibilities are endless. One of the most incredible flavor combinations is "Agrodolce", sweet and sour and these cipolline onions prepared in that style are absolutely delicious. The hardest part in making these is waiting at least six weeks to let the flavors set. I thought since we are on the topic of Fall and Fall flavors I would add in this spiced pear butter, sort of a two for one. Pears, cinnamon, cloves and a little dry white wine, you will want to make a double batch of this. Perfect to have on hand to serve with pancakes, a spiced cake of some kind or just spoon a bit into your yogurt in the morning.
Pickled Onions Agrodolce
Fills 2 (1 pint) jar
1 1/2 lb pearl onions (I used Cipolinne) , peeled
2 1/2 Tablespoons pickling salts
2 cups balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
2 dried chiles
1/3 cup raisins
Put the peeled onions into a wide shallow dish and sprinkle with the salt. Let sit overnight.
Meanwhile, pour vinegar into a suacepan with 1/2 cup of the sugar and all the spices and bring to a boil, stirring a bit to help dissolve sugar. Add the raisins, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Let sit overnight too.
The next day prepare a boiling water bath and keep sterilized jars and lids warm. Rinse the onions in cold water and carefully pat dry.
Put in reserved sugar into a skillet and gently heat until it turns a shade or two darker. Just before it starts to bubble, put the onions in and stir them around to brown in the sugar. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and place into warm jars.
Remove the cinnamon stick from the vinegar and raisin mixture, then reheat the mixture and pour over it over the onions in the jars, leaving a head space of 1/2 inch from the top. Use a sterilized plastic spatula to remove any air bubbles. Process the filled jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes at sea level. Let cool, seal the jars and add a cute label before storing. Let sit weeks before using. Once open store the onions in the refrigerator.
Spiced Pear Butter
Adapted from Bon Appetit
4 pounds Bartlett pears (unpeeled if you have a food mil), cored, cut into 1 inch chunks
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 orange slices
1 lemon slice
4 whole cloves
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom
pinch of salt
Combine pears, wine and lemon juice in a heavy large saucepan. Cover and simmer until pears are soft, pushing unsubmerged pears into liquid occasionally, about 25 minutes. Force through food mill if using unpeeled pears to remove pear peel. Transfer to processor and puree.
Return puree to heavy large saucepan. Add remaining ingredients. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium and boil gently until mixture thickens and mounds slightly on spoon, stirring often, about 50 minutes.
Discard fruit slices, cloves vanilla bean and cinnamon. Spoon butter into hot canning jars, filling only to 1/4 inch from top. Immediately wipe rim, using towel dipped into hot water. Place lid on jar; seal jar tight. Repeat with remaining jars.
Arrange jars in a large pot of boiling water, one inch of water should cover the tops of jars. Cover pot and boil rapidly for 20 minutes. Remove jars from pot. Cool to room temperature. Press the center of each lid. If lid stays down, jar is sealed. (If lid pops up, store in refrigerator.) Store in a cool dry place for up to one year. Refrigerate after opening.