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50+ pounds of onions; no storage

  • c

About two weeks ago, a farmer friend gifted us with at least 50 pounds of organically grown onions, perhaps closer to 100 pounds. About half of them are sweet onions so they won't last long.

We've had some great batches of French onion soup, but beyond that - though we use onions in most dishes - I'm at a loss.

Here's the kicker: We live off-grid in northern Idaho. Our freezer space is minimal. At this time of year we can and do use the outdoors as freezer space, but if we're doing any major storage thing, it needs to be stuff that will be used up before the temperatures rise in March.

We're trying to do SOMETHING with these before they go bad, though I guess there is always the compost pile. Suggestions? (We do have friends we can swipe a little electric-run-freezer-space from in a pinch.)


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  1. If you're willing to do a lot of slicing, you can reduce the volume of a portion of it by making caramelized onions in the oven and then freezing those--they will be great for onion soup, stews and burger/pizza topping. Be careful about freezing onions, if the seal is not tight everything in the freezer, including the freezer, can become onion flavored.

    3 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      I was thinking that caramelizing a chunk of them would be a good idea (smaller, concentrated), but the work involved sounded...not worth it. (I'm imagining pan after pan of onions here. lol.) I'm not familiar with caramelizing in the oven; that seems like it might be a bit faster.

      (And thank you for the onion/freezer tip. We'll be careful!)

        1. re: escondido123

          Thanks. Sent that link along to the "prep cook" (also known as "husband") to hopefully get started on this. I hate waste.

    2. If you can't cook/store and use it yourself, you might have friends to share with and a food service place helping to feed people in need would appreciate the donation, if you live near such a place.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Terrie H.

        Alas, the county that we live in is about 2/3 the size of the state of Rhode Island, but has less than 1/100th of the population of that state. There are a few more than 9,000 people in the entire county, and most of them garden, I swear. (We're looking for friends who are willing to ALSO figure out stuff to do with toomanyonions, though. lol.)

        There isn't anywhere to send these things, which is why they were given to us. (Keep in mind that the nearest McDonald's, movie theater or Walmart from where I live is 60+ miles away, and where we live, we don't have mail/Fed Ex/UPS delivery...really remote.)

        Though of the very few (two?) places in this county that deal with food, I wonder if I prepped them in a commercial kitchen, if they would have space for them. I'll check.

        Thanks. :)

        1. re: Cady

          Good luck, Cady. It sounds like you live in an incredible place, though it comes with its challenges. Thinking that cooking the onions down and freezing would be your best option. I just made a stock-free onion soup that needed a lot of onions and loved it.

      2. For starters, take a good 10 pounds of those onions, dice them, and very slowly sauté them in some olive or canola oil until they are caramelized and have reached a rich brown color, maybe an hour or more. Stir them every few minutes to keep them from burning. You should end up with about two quarts of a fabulous condiment, suitable as a side dish in itself, a base for onion soup, ingredient of stuffing, companion to sauteed mushrooms, flavoring agent for roast potatoes, topping for steak, burger or omelet...just about any use you can imagine. Your onions will keep "refrigerated" for some time. Of course, every piece of meat you cook from now on, whether a chicken or a brisket, should go into the pot atop a bed of sliced onions. And when you run out of ideas, ask your friend the onion farmer. I live in NYC and for years I've been using a corner of my building's roof deck as a natural refrigerator, especially around the holidays, when there is often too much to fit into the refrigerator or freezer.

        1 Reply
        1. re: hmarano

          I see much caramelization in my future. lol. I LOVE caramelized onions. (I have a party pasta filling or spread that I do with chopped olives, caramelized onions and cream cheese that I could live on.)

          I guess if nothing else we should START caramelizing. Maybe the friends who don't need onions, *would* take some caramelized onions, for their own freezers. :D

        2. My husband just informed me that they also gave us several heads of cabbage and a 50 pound bag of carrots. Cabbage I can deal with but fifty pounds of carrots?

          And we've had the carrots and onions for almost two weeks now, so now I'm getting nervous. lol.

          1. Carrot storage: might find something useful here http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/e...
            How about drying the onions? Do you have a dehydrator? It will probably smell up the house, or you could use your oven. http://homejoys.blogspot.com/2010/09/...

            2 Replies
            1. re: wyogal

              Wyogal, we *don't* have a dehydrator, and we should. We've dried greens and herbs in the oven with the pilot light, but never something as adventurous as carrots or onions.

              (I love kale, and SHOULD dry some, but currently, even with extended 35 degree days and 20 degree nights, we're still picking kale.)

              Thanks for the carrot storage link, and I'll look into oven drying both carrots and onions.

              Thanks! :)

              1. re: Cady

                After years of drying stuff in the oven, for backpacking trips, he finally broke down and bought a dehydrator a couple of years ago. It was a hot summer, so I didn't use it much, but would like to use it more this winter. Dried sliced bananas are fabulous! But, you could probably dry the onions in the oven. google: drying onions in an oven You will get lots of results.

            2. Store them in your garage and use them as needed....rather than thinking of ways to use them up and store., taking up your valuable freezer space. The cool temperature in the garage will hold them....just as they would do so in a large commercial warehouse cold storage. As long as the temperature in your garage does not go down to 32 and below, you should be fine to keep them until you can figure out what you want to use them for.

              Just be sure to visit them once in a while and pick the ones that need to be used up first.

              1. I'm gifting onion marmalade again this year (it was VERY well received last year.)

                This is the recipe if its something that might interest you.


                1. For an Indian dish out of Madhur Jaffrey's "Invitation…" book there was a garnish of onions fried to the point of crispness. They were quite yummy with an intense brown "mahogany" flavor. I bet they could be easily stored, although I have not tried it.

                  In IKEA one time, I purchased a tub of what looked like "French-fried" onions. These were entirely dried out, with a concentrated flavor although less caramelized than the Jaffrey ones. They had flour as one of the ingredients. I say "French-fried" being one of probably a small minority on this board who has never purchased or tasted the renowned Durkee product.

                  Anyway, the dried/fried onions made a nice crispy garnish.

                  1. we put our vidalia onions in panty hose...onion...knot...another onion...knot...etc. in the garage they last all winter that way