I once bought a jar of caramelised onion chutney at a fayre and promised myself that one day I would hunt out a recipe and make some myself. It is a really useful addition to the store cupboard: delicious with cheese or cold meat, so especially good around Christmas when there are plenty of cold cuts, but also good stirred into gravy to add extra flavour. If you like hot dogs then you could substitute this chutney for the fried onions and if you like sausage rolls then why not try the recipe on this site for Sausagemeat Plait substituting Caramelised Red (or White if you prefer) Onion Chutney for the Fennel & Apple Chutney.
Finding nothing particularly useable in my recipe books, I turned to the web and discovered several helpful recipes, in particular one from Tesco called Caramelised Onion Chutney, but I consulted other recipes as well. One of these Red Onion & Balsamic Chutney, a Lesley Waters recipe on the Good Food Channel site, added orange which I wanted to include in my recipe, having made some onion marmalade (a mixture of seville orange and onions) some years ago. The Tesco recipe used a pinch of chill, but I used Piment d’Espelette as an alternative. The recipe did not specify the type of onion, so I assume that it should be white ones, however as I had plenty I used red onions instead. The only comment I would make is that I would have preferred the chutney to be pinkish rather than brown, reflecting the rosy colour of the onions. The darkening came both from the brown sugar, even though I used light brown, the dark balsamic vinegar and the red wine vinegar. If I did this again I woudl certainly use white wine vinegar and white balsamic vinegar and possibly white granulated sugar as well. Ideally this recipe should be kept to mature for 6 – 12 months, according to the Tesco recipe. I made mine at the start of November so by Christmas it will have matured for almost 2 months: not quite long enough I know but I plan to keep one jar by for next Christmas to see if it really does improve with age.
Caramelised Red Onion Chutney
(3 x 500g/1lb jars)
3tbsp olive oil
1·5kg/3lb onions – I used red onions
zest & juice of 1 orange
300g/10oz light muscovado sugar (or white granulated to help preserve colour)
200ml/7fl oz red wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar to help preserve colour)
3tbsp balsamic vinegar (or white to help preserve colour)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1tbsp wholegrain mustard
large pinch paprika
large pinch crushed chillies or Piment d’Espelette (Espelette pepper)
1. Peel and thinly slice the onions. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and using a low heat gently fry them for 10 minutes until they have softened. They must not brown.
2. Stir in 3 tbsp sugar. Turn up the heat and cook the chutney for 3-4 minutes and allow the onions to brown, although if you want to preserve the pink colour of the chutney try not to let them brown very much. Stir in the rest of the sugar and then add the remaining ingredients.
3. Simmer the mixture gently for 10-15 minutes. The liquid should reduce, the mixture thicken and turn a dark caramel colour. (This instruction comes from the original: using white vinegars and sugar should hopefully preserve the colour a little better although adding the sugar will make it darken a little.)
4. Wash the jars well and sterilise them. I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water. I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.
5. Pot while still hot into the pre-prepared sterilised jars. Screw on the lids well and then turn upside down until cool, which helps with the seal, after which they can be labelled. This can be eaten immediately but also keeps well.
7. If you can wait that long it is recommended that this chutney is stored for 6 – 12 months before use.