Don’t let the boring name turn you off — it’s the one I use for these delicious little flavour explosions, in part, I think, to keep the kids from wanting to try them. They are mine — ALL MINE! — though when I first started making them, it was because they reminded me of festive meals at my grandparents’ house in Nova Scotia when I was a child. I fully admit that I’ve made the full chicken (or turkey) dinner solely as an excuse to make these — Thanksgiving becomes a vehicle for my dressing, squash and boiled onion addictions, and I’m A-okay with that!
To make boiled onions, I prefer to use “boilers”. This time of year, I go down to our local farmers’ market and buy 2 or 3 10lb bags of them, in fact — half for boiling, and half because the little ones keep better for winter cooking. At $4 for a 10lb bag, you can’t beat the price!
You will also need cider vinegar (or a reasonable substitute vinegar — balsamic and malt will also work in a pinch!), apple juice or apple cider, brown sugar and sea salt.
These onions look like cooking onions, but are smaller — about the size of a lime or a little smaller. Don’t be fooled into using pickling onions, as those are a different beast altogether. You can use larger cooking onions, but will need to increase the cooking time.
Prepare the onions, removing the stem end, roots, and papery outside covering. Fit them tightly into a saucepan — don’t allow too much room between them. Add vinegar until it reaches 1/3 of the way up the onions. Add the apple juice to 2/3 of the way up the onions. For a pan with 16 onions, sprinkle about 3/4 cup of brown sugar on top. Decrease or increase the sugar accordingly, if you prefer to make a smaller or larger pot of onions. Sprinkle with salt.
Pop the pan onto the stove top on medium-high heat until it comes to a boil, then decrease to low heat and simmer for 15 minutes (longer if using larger onions).
Once the onions are tender when pricked with a fork, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and place into an oven-friendly serving dish. Turn up the heat to medium and boil the liquid down until it is slightly thicker than table syrup. Make sure you stir it from time to time, so it doesn’t burn to the bottom. It should reduce by about 2/3.
Pour over the cooked onions. At this point, you can either pop them in the oven (covered) until you are ready to serve your meal, or you can pop them (also covered!) into your fridge until you need them. I often make them a day or two ahead of time and put them into the oven at 325F for the last 15 – 20 min of the cooking time for my meal — just long enough to reheat them through.