All onions can be divided into two categories: storage and spring/summer. An onion’s appearance is the best indicator when trying to determine it’s category.
The spring/summer onion has a thinner, lighter colour skin
The storage onion is protected by multiple layers of thick, darker skin.
The storage onion is known for its intense flavour and higher percentage of solids. Red, white and yellow varieties are available throughout their season which begins in August and goes through March.
Spring/summer onions are routinely sweeter and milder than storage onions because they have a high water and sugar content. This also makes them more susceptible to bruising. These onions are also available in red, white, yellow throughout their season that begins in April and ends in August. Take extra care in handling these onions.
- Prepare onions as close to cooking time or serving time as possible. Their flavour deteriorates and aroma intensifies over time.
- Try refrigerating onions 30 minutes before preparation to prevent tearing.
- To remove strong flavours when using raw onions, pour boiling water over them, rinse in cold water and pat dry. They remain crunchy and have less sharpness
- Chopped or sliced onions can be frozen and used later in cooked dishes. Freezing makes them too limp for fresh use.
- To remove the smell of onions from hands or equipment, rub them with lemon juice or salt.
Cooking With Onions
Onions are a vegetable that can be appreciated either when cooked or eaten raw. The taste and texture of the onion depends greatly on its preparation method. Onions can be cooked in so many ways, braised, boiled, steamed, baked, sautéed, escalloped, fried, or grilled.
Sautéing onions softens their texture and enriches their taste. The more pungent the onion is raw, the sweeter it becomes when cooked. Onions can be simmered in broth of wine instead of butter to lower the fat content.
Yellow onions turn a rich dark brown when cooked and give French onion soup its tangy sweet flavour. White onions are the traditional onion used in classic Mexican cuisine. They have a golden colour and sweet flavour when sautéed. The red onion is a good choice for fresh uses or in grilling and char-boiling.
Suggested Uses For Onions
- Slice red and white onions paper-thin, toss with anchovies, capers and vinaigrette dressing for a unique onion salad
- Alternate slices of tomatoes, onion, and mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and top with fresh chopped basil for a classic Italian appetizer
- Garnish salads with thinly sliced onion rings
- Onion canapés can be made by topping buttered, trimmed, sandwich bread with thinly sliced onions and watercress. Cut bread into decorative shapes
- Bake small onions stuffed with wild rice, cheese, or crab meat for an usual onion appetizer
- For a tangy onion sandwiches, top baguettes, rolls or bagels with flavoured cream cheese, paper-thin slices of onions and fresh herbs.
- Create a Mediterranean-style pizza with caramelized onions, olive and goat cheese on a wheat crust.
- For a savoury side dish, season whole, peeled onions with butter, soy sauce or other marinade and bake until tender.
- Toss cooked whole onions in butter and sprinkle with chopped parsley and fresh herbs
- Stuff onion shells with cream spinach, broccoli and cheese or other vegetable combinations for simple vegetarian dishes
- Substitute onions for other vegetables in soufflés, casseroles, gratins, frittatas, and pizzas
- Batter or bread large onions for ever popular onion rings