Last month I found myself “in a pickle”. This month I am “in a jam”. The Irish and British larder is full of preserved and pickled items. This jam holds a special place for me. I recreated it from a recipe I had used at another establishment, to adapt more to Irish cookery. It was more of a red wine red onion marmalade with a touch of cassis if my memory serves me correctly. When I arrived at the restaurant I thought to use Ribena, the black currant beverage. They sold the concentrate in the food goods section of the shoppe. It seemed the perfect tie-in. Black currants are a common fruit in Ireland. I can remember them as part of the gardens at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara pictured here.
The black currant syrup provided the stickiness that the jam needed. The red onions, the perfect savouriness to use in so may different applications. As it was too costly to use the Ribena to make the jam, I found an even better substitute at our local Middle Eastern market. Marco Polo makes a Black Currant concentrate I liked even better.
While at the restaurant, we would use the for roast beef melts. We would also put it on an extremely popular vegetarian melt – roasted red pepper, brie and onion jam on Irish wheaten bread. It is also brilliant as goat cheese and red onion jam tartlets. It is even good as a burger condiment.
- 114 grams Unsalted Butter
- 34 grams Olive Oil
- 2400 grams Red Onions, peeled and sliced
- 9 grams Kosher Salt
- 25 sprigs Fresh Thyme
- 160 grams Balsamic Vinegar
- 374 grams Black Currant Concentrate
- 138 grams Dark Brown Sugar
- Peel, halve and thinly slice the onions. Melt the butter with the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a high heat - allow butter to brown a bit. Tip in the onions in and give them a good stir so they are glossed with butter. Sprinkle over the sugar, thyme leaves, and some salt and pepper. Give everything another really good stir and reduce the heat slightly. Cook uncovered for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions are ready when all their juices have evaporated, they’re really soft and sticky and smell of sugar caramelising. They should be so soft that they break when pressed against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon. Slow cooking is the secret of really soft and sticky onions, so don't rush this part.
- Pour in the balsamic vinegar and black currant concentrate - simmer everything, still uncovered, over a high heat for 50 more minutes, stirring every so often until the onions are a deep eggplant colour and the liquid has reduced by about two-thirds. It’s done when drawing a spoon across the bottom of the pan clears a path that fills rapidly with syrupy juice. Leave the onions to cool in the pan, then scoop into sterilised jars and seal. Can be eaten straight away, but keeps in the fridge for up to 3 months.