I can. not. stop. eating stacks of crackers with aged white cheddar and spoonfuls of roasted garlic jam. Would you? Could you? Especially when there’s a stack and a jar beside your laptop and you’re tangled in a blanket, unable to run away from its sweet-sour-tangy-salty-garlicky charms?
When it’s made almost entirely of vegetables, jam totally counts as dinner, right?
If garlic had a season, it would be now. I love the purple-skinned, sticky and intense local garlic that can be found this time of year – nothing like the dry, papery stuff that comes from China. The fall is the best time to plant it, too – take a few cloves from a great head of garlic and poke them into the ground. That green sprout that emerges from a clove if you’ve left it too long in the cupboard is the plant starting to grow. Next spring you’ll have garlic scapes, and if you time things right, a supply of beautiful garlic throughout summer and into fall, when it’s time to save a few cloves to plant again. And when it’s as good as it gets, garlic is just as worthy of being preserved as berries and stone fruits.
Even if you don’t make jam, everyone should know how to roast a head of garlic. It’s something you can do any time the oven is on – when you’re roasting a chicken, for example, or baking a lasagna, you can wrap a few heads of garlic, their tops sheared off and drizzled with oil, and pop them into the oven, directly on the oven rack, for 45 minutes to an hour, until they’re soft and dark enough to squeeze out of their skins. You needn’t use it right away; keep the heads in their foil in the fridge to spread on sandwiches or squeeze into vinaigrettes or mashed potatoes.
And if jam is your preferred vehicle, start by squeezing plenty into a pan of caramelizing onions.
Making a big pot of it now (this recipe is easily doubled, tripled or quadrupled) will set you up for cheese platters and grilled cheese sandwiches throughout the fall, and you’ll be set up with jars of a little something special to grab off the shelf and bring to a party. Sharing is good.
Balsamic Onion & Roasted Garlic Jam
Dark, tangy and sticky-sweet, this jam is simple to make, and there’s no need to worry about it setting like fruit-based jam. Slather it inside sandwiches (Panini or grilled cheese!) or serve with cheese and crackers.
2 large sweet onions
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
2-3 heads of garlic, roasted
1/4 cup packed brown sugar or honey
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
pinch freshly ground black pepper
Peel the onions and cut into quarters or sixths; place in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. This gives you pieces of onion in a variety of sizes; alternatively roughly chop them by hand.
Place the olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat; add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, until soft. Squeeze the garlic out of its casing into the onions and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until the excess moisture is starting to cook off.
Add the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and pepper and cook, stirring often, for another 15-20 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and deep golden. Cool and refrigerate until needed. (Freeze any you’ll be storing for over a week.)
Makes about 2 cups.