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Confused about red onions

Thanks4Food Mar 1, 2012 09:59 AM

I grew up using red onion (bermuda, purple) for salads, sandwiches or anywhere I wanted raw but fairly mild. I've lived all around the country too and no problems with onions until coming to the South. Now I can't trust red/purple onions at all--they'll be sharper and more pungent than yellow or white.

I really miss having a somewhat mild onion on a tomato sandwich or in a salad, but I haven't been able to figure out what's safe. (They sell a lot of sweet onions here, but I don't want a sweet taste.) We've tried buying them from different stores too, but the ones we recently got at Whole Foods were actually the most stinging to the eyes I've experienced in a long time. The kitchen stunk for days, and they were inedible on a salad.

Why would red onions be stronger here than what I've had elsewhere around the country?

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    fourunder RE: Thanks4Food Mar 1, 2012 10:06 AM

    I have not yet tried, but they say you should slice onions near an open flame.....also, you can soak the onions in water, or other liquid, and then dry them before placing on a sandwich or salad, I recently came back from a trip in Hawaii, and that's how they prepared the raw onions in the Four Seasons Hotel. A very nice cooking tip I had never considered before, but definitely will do so in the future.

    3 Replies
    1. re: fourunder
      katecm RE: fourunder Mar 1, 2012 10:15 AM

      Rinsing your onions under water is a great trick. Another option, if you felt like it, would be to do a quick pickle. Only takes a minute and they'll keep in a tupperware for a long time.

      1. re: katecm
        jmckee RE: katecm Mar 1, 2012 11:26 AM

        I slice them and soak them in ice water for half an hour, then pat dry. It takes a good deal of the bite out.

        1. re: katecm
          LauraGrace RE: katecm Mar 1, 2012 06:32 PM

          Quick-pickled red onions are one of my favorite relish/condiment things. Such a great addition to a hundred different things.

      2. r
        rjbh20 RE: Thanks4Food Mar 1, 2012 10:12 AM

        The :"strength" of onions is determined largely by the environment (particularly soil, but also weather) in which they're grown. Obviously the vareity of onion matters as well, but soil (terroir!) is why Vidalia onions taste the way they do. You're probably getting red onions grown from different regions than you're used to.

        1. g
          GH1618 RE: Thanks4Food Mar 1, 2012 10:17 AM

          Helpful hint:


          1 Reply
          1. re: GH1618
            Thanks4Food RE: GH1618 Mar 1, 2012 10:32 AM

            Thanks for that--very interesting. Ready to try a tomato sandwich again! I'll also try the pickling method.

          2. m
            Maximilien RE: Thanks4Food Mar 1, 2012 11:33 AM

            When preparing onions for raw dishes, I always rinse them in cold water; it removes some of the sharpness.



            1. e
              escondido123 RE: Thanks4Food Mar 1, 2012 11:34 AM

              I leave in So Cal and I swear the red onions have become more pungent in the last 5 years. When I want a mild onion, I now use a white onion--nice flavor with no acridness.

              1 Reply
              1. re: escondido123
                hotoynoodle RE: escondido123 Mar 2, 2012 12:25 PM

                i am a big scallion fan for this reason.

              2. dave_c RE: Thanks4Food Mar 1, 2012 12:18 PM

                I found that the cold water soak works really well, much more effective than rinsing.

                1. k
                  kengk RE: Thanks4Food Mar 1, 2012 03:14 PM

                  "They sell a lot of sweet onions here, but I don't want a sweet taste"

                  Have you tried Vidalia's? I don't care for them for cooking but they are very nice raw. I would like for them to grow some red onions in that sweet soil.

                  1. l
                    LisaPA RE: Thanks4Food Mar 1, 2012 07:50 PM

                    The soaking technique is also useful for garlic and shallot if you're making a vinaigrette. Let the allium soak in the acid (vinegar, citrus juice, whatever) while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.

                    Have you actually tried a "sweet" onion? Don't be fooled by the name, they're not actually sweet. They're just not hot and bitter like other onions can be.

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