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Storing onions

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  • anzu May 1, 2008 10:35 PM
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I am onion-storage-challenged. I think I also have a case of onion-run-out-phobia, because every time I am at a market, I think, "omg! I need onions." even though I probably have like five at home. The result is that I now have onions--three of them--that have started sprouting and are sprouting out of control. I store my onions on the counter, and they always seem to sprout before I need to use them.

I think I will chop up the ones that are currently sprouting and freeze them before they sprout even more. But is there a way to prevent this? Storing in the fridge keeps them cooler, but they seem to mold quicker, so I usually store them outside. During the winter time, the onions can sit on the counter for weeks without sprouting, but now with the warmer weather, they seem to be sprouting like mad.

Other than the fridge, a "cooler" storage area is not an option, since I live on the top floor of a duplex, and my apartment has very little insulation, which means that this time of year, the afternoon temperature ranges from balmy to sweltering.

Aside from becoming better at figuring out how many onions I actually need, and buying only what I need for that week, are there storage techniques to prolong their lives?

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  1. They may be sprouting because they're in the light; I always keep mine in a cabinet. They do eventually sprout, but it takes awhile

    1. Even if you can't keep them in a cool place, try to keep them in a dark place.

      I put mine in a cabinet that I don't open often. Like DGresh said, they will eventually sprout, but it takes a long time and they usually rot before then. I know, yuck, but I have the same issue as you do and tend to buy onions every time I go to market, whether they are needed or not.

      5 Replies
      1. re: QueenB

        Baked onions with a Parmesan crust with a nice balsamic reduction... mmmmmm uses those onions right up!

        1. re: Morganna

          Morganna, that sounds great. Will you share the details?

          1. re: lisavf

            You know, I was sure I got the recipe on epicurious, but I can't find it for the life of me. IIRC, you cut the tops and bottoms off of your onions (nice large ones, don't have to be any special sort, different kinds will give you different outcomes in the end). You make a balsamic reduction, and scoop out the onion just a little bit, not completely, but so you have a little dent in the top. Pour the reduction over the top, then mix fresh bread crumbs, freshly grated parmesan or romano, some parsley and some herbs, sprinkle salt and pepper on top of the onion, then mound the breading on top and bake it until the onion is soft and serve. I THINK that's how it went. It's been a real long time, and I have to search for my print out of the recipe at home now, so I can post it.

            In searching epicurious.com I did find several recipies for roasting onions with balsamic. :)

            1. re: Morganna

              I would think you could get even more flavor by laying thickly-sliced onion in a buttered 9x13 or larger pan, then drizzling and topping. You'd get more caramelization and more crust...the best parts!

              1. re: Morganna

                Ooh. That sounds delicious. I'll have to try that. I braise onions in balsamic sometimes; it is really yummy!

        2. Our onions are stored in an open wire basket stand in a cool dark pantry. If you could hang one of those three basket gizmos in a dark corner, I think it would be better than storing the onions in a closed cabinet. Freely circulating air would probably prevent early sprouting. I, too, am constantly buying onions....and garlic. God forbid I run out of garlic!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Gio

            I thought it was just me - I went yesterday to buy fixings for a quart of salsa and a quart of guacamole. But I didn't buy ONE onion, I bought 5 pounds, and three heads of garlic. In case i was running low or something I guess.

            1. re: Gio

              "one of those three basket gizmos in a dark corner"

              Hang another one underneath, now it's a 6-basket gizmo.

            2. This time of year is the worst for onions. Most of the regular cooking onions we get were harvested last fall, so they've been in storage for quite a few months. The longer day length and warm temperatures are telling the onions it's time to grow. So they do. It's not your fault. I'd keep them in a cool, dry, dark place - not the fridge, but a pantry or cupboard with circulating air. This will keep the outsides from getting damp and fool them into thinking they should still be hibernating. I am also guilty of buying a million onions - I always buy a 50 lb. bag of them in October which gets me through the winter, but I've always run out by April. So now I'm buying them by the 3 lb. bag. When you shop, look for onions that are really firm to the touch. Anything even a tiny bit soft will either sprout or rot before you get around to using them.

              1. I know it's heresy, but I keep onions and potatoes in the fridge. My mother did, and I'd been doing so for years before learning it's verboten. Wasn't broken, so I kept doing it. When I buy onions that I'm using right away, at room temp, I find they create more tears than chilled onions do. Recently I went crazy with the mandoline, slicing several cups more onions than I needed. I froze them in a baggie. When I did use them, in making a pan sauce, I found that even from frozen, they cooked faster than fresh, presumably because freezing breaks down cell walls. When pressed for time, having ready-to-use onions for cooking is very convenient, so now I always keep a pound or more of chopped onion in the freezer. A friend always buys supermarket bagged frozen chopped onions - and her ice cubes have a bad onion taste. But there is no odor contamination with the home-chopped onions in a freezer baggie.

                4 Replies
                1. re: greygarious

                  I'm lucky enough to l have a old home w/ a root cellar where I keep the majority of my veggies, but I always keep at least 1 large onion in the fridge'. It saves me a trip down a flight of stairs when I need it, and they do not make me tear up as severely when they are chilled.

                  1. re: greygarious

                    Actually, I forgot about that-- I might commit sacrilege and also try the fridge b/c the crying thing has been really bad lately.

                    Also, thanks for the cupboard suggestion, but unfortunately, due to my miniscule-sized kitchen and lack of closet space, I have zero space for extra stuff in my cupboards. I might look into moving stuff around-- like I suppose the container of almonds could move to the counter and I could move the onions there. I have 2 cabinets for food that are completely full with flours, sugars, cans and jars of misc. things pasta, legumes, various grains and spices.

                    Lots of you mentioned dark places (the cool is not an option, unfortunately)-- since I don't have too much leeway in terms of cupboard space (and I don't even have a pantry! I have a small double-cabinet sized "closet", but it is so narrow that my rice cooker is stacked on top of vases, which are stacked on top of a bag of rice. Pots are stacked on top of paper towels and various cooking alcohols I have.), I wonder if the onions would be "tricked", if I put them in a paper bag and then cover them with a cloth or towel.

                    1. re: anzu

                      I don't know about bagging them.... perhaps poking holes for ventilation would be a good thing. The alternative, it seems to me, would be to keep them on the counter as you have done, but in a colander, decorative or utilitarian.....

                    2. re: greygarious

                      I do it too ... the earth has not stopped rotating on its axis. When I want white onions chopped, I've started buying them pre-done. I also only buy onions for immediate need.

                    3. I too am guilty of keeping my onions in the fridge. I too overbuy and I find that they stay quite fresh in the fridge for quite awhile. I will even put the last few potatoes in the fridge too. Call me quirky.

                      1. I toss mine into a storage drawer in the kitchen that has all my info booklets on the appliances etc. They don't transfer smell as long as they are got getting funky. They just sit loose in there. Dark and far away from the stove (heat)

                        1. I, too, am a member of Onions Anonymous. To me, they're a food, not a flavoring. And I also have a galley-sized kitchen with one large west-facing window. I stash mine in brown paper bags that I keep on the counter; when it gets warm, the bags get stashed in the oven or the microwave. Every now and again, I get onion bonsai--oh well! For recipes that require multiple onions (e.g., onion pie, onion casserole), I put them in the fridge the night before in an effort to reduce the crying.

                          1. What is the harm in them sprouting? I have 3 that are sprouting like I've never seen before, and I was hoping that I could do the same as with garlic: remove the sprouts and simply use the rest.

                            Is there something adverse that I should know?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: renz

                              Nothing wrong at all with the sprouts, it's just that's the slippery slope before they disintegrate entirely. These onions are in the process of transmogrifying - no longer content to be cooking onions, they are about to turn into seed-producing onion plants. If you planted that onion - any storage onion, actually - it would grow a nice green top, then send up a flower stalk which will eventually produce onion seeds. This is the cycle of oniony life, for what it's worth. The body of the onion more or less consumes itself in the process.

                              Plant one in a pot. It's fun and educational!