Red Onion Marmalade

Quick. What do you think of when I say Marmalade? My first thought is Paddington Bear. Then I think of the colour orange. Then I think of my Dad and Grandma since they’re the only two people I know that actively eat and like marmalade. What’s the difference between marmalade and jam btw? Ok…these are a lot of thoughts rolled into one.
So after a bit of research I found out that marmalade is made with citrus related fruits (usually bitter Seville oranges from Spain or Portugal) whereas jam is made from sweet fruits. Makes sense. I’ve never seen orange jam anywhere. Plus marmalade sounds way fancier than plain ol’ jam. But you know me. Always looking for recipes that twist the norm. I’m the girl your parents warned you about – that food rebel, cruising into town and shaking stuff up. So when I came across the recipe for Red Onion Marmalade in the Surf Cafe Cookbook: Cooking and Surfing on the West Coast of Ireland, I rolled up my imaginary sleeves and got to work.
First off, this book is written by Jane & Myles Lamberth and is a very eclectic collection of stories and pictures and recipes from their life in Ireland and running the Shells Cafe. You can tell that the book is about the community as much as it is about the food, which I love. The book has a scrapbook feel which I find very cool and I appreciate that a lot of attention is paid to condiments – salad dressing, flavoured oil, flavoured mayonnaise, hummus, and red onion marmalade. Condiments are the often overlooked additions that bump a regular meal up to gourmet status. It’s so easy to spend time and effort on a meal but then smother it with store-bought dressing or the standard ketchup, pepper, mustard, mayo or all of the above (or all of the sideways cause this isn’t arranged like a list).
I confess that in the past, I never put much effort into condiments either but I’m trying to change that. There are too many good recipes out there!
It didn’t take very much prep work to make except for cutting the onions – but I used a mandoline and got through it pretty quickly although onion tears were shed. You can easily have this simmering away on the back burner of your stove as you do dishes or cook dinner. It really isn’t a hassle.
Thanks to Jane & Miles for granting me permission to post this recipe!

Red Onion Marmalade
A condiment that does with almost everything! Put it on your favourite sandwich or serve with a cut of roast meat. It’s also great with terrines, pates and salads, and goes amazingly well with cheese.
1 large slug olive oil
12 large red onions, thinly sliced
300g (1 1/2 cup) sugar
100 ml (1/2 cup) red wine
200ml (1 cup) red wine vinegar
100ml (1/2 cup) sweet fruity red drink, like port or cassis or even grape juice – you can even use cranberry sauce which is great around Christmas
2 teaspoons fennel seed (optional)
  • On high heat and using a heavy based saucepan, saute the onions and olive oil until they soften down and look to be about halfway cooked through. If your onions are really juicy you might want to drain a bit of the liquid – especially if you’re making a bigger batch or doubling the recipe.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and give everything a good stir. Reduce the heat and leave the pot uncovered and allow to blip blip away for about 30 to 40 minutes stirring occasionally.
  • You’re looking to reduce most of the liquid. The onions should be soft so that they break when pressed against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Depending on the thickness of your pot, the onions may need a further 10 minutes or so.
  • Red Onion Marmalade keeps well in any container for a week or so but sterilized jars are best for maximum longevity.

My only major change to the recipe was that I used cranberry juice as the sweet fruity red drink. I also omitted the fennel. The marmalade is surprisingly sweet, especially since onions aren’t and you wouldn’t expect it to be. When I make it again, I will reduce the amount of sugar as my own personal preference. I’m going to use it during a gourmet grilled cheese night that I’m planning with some friends, and will likely use it the next time I make burgers.

My super secret personal tip for this recipe and all recipes: Make sure you have enough of each ingredient before you start. I had some friends over the other night and someone drank out the bottle of red wine I had but left it on the bar with the stopper in it so I thought that we had wine left. When my onions were caramelized and ready for their red wine soak, I lifted up the bottle and? Not a drop. Thank goodness for the bottle of wine I have stored for emergencies. You all have those too, right? Rabin ran upstairs for the bottle after he realized that my frantic yelling wasn’t because I burned or cut myself. He understands the drama that is cooking.


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