No Tears Shed

slicing onions

I felt overwhelmed planning for last week’s Fermented Condiments class, mostly because there were so many directions I could take. Dressings, relishes, chutneys, salsas, and my new favorite concentrated seasonings, any of these could take up the whole time. I didn’t know how many of the students where completely new to fermentation, so I wanted the hands-on project to be one with a guaranteed success rate.  I chose one of my favorites.  Fermented Onion Relish which is as simple as it is delicious.

When my eldest son, who worked in the commercial kitchen producing this in 200 pound batches, heard my plan he immediately said, “Are you kidding? Your going to have a room full of people chop onions?” I remembered the swimming goggles that fogged our vision and did not keep the crying sting from our eyes.  “Oh that is bad.” I said. I thought about it a lot. I decided there would be a few other vegetables to slice so that nobody would have to slice onions. We would make fennel chutney as well.  And, I justified to myself, we were talking about 10 onions over a class of 8.

Fast forward to Thursday evening. We have talked about fermentation, we have tasted a colorful array of fermented condiments; from salsa’s to spice pastes. The participants are happy, one woman tells me, “It is my goal to have in my refrigerator all of these varieties of condiments.”

It is now time for the hands-on portion of the class. We start with the onions. After a few minutes I am standing in front of my students who are dutifully slicing these onions.  The room started to fill with that familiar smell, I look around the room and we are only half way through.  I start to fret, maybe my son was right.

We endured, there was a huge hood fan in the kitchen and we took the onion ends to sit outside of the room. As the salt was added and the onions began to weep themselves the intensity cleared and we made it through.  Soon we where packing jars, talking about the fermentation time, and everyone went home smiling.  Whew.

Simple Onion Relish
4 -5 Onions
1 tsp. mustard seed
1 tsp cumin
1 – 2 tsps salt
1 TBLS Sauerkraut brine (or raw whey)

In this relish the fermenting process is the same as in basic sauerkraut, shred, salt, submerge.

Note: Onions lack inherent Lactic acid bacteria (LAB), when combined in the sauerkraut crock, kimchi pot, or pickle jar this is not a problem, just a little bit of the other vegetables have plenty of LABs to jump start the process.  In onion only relishes and chutneys adding a little bit of sauerkraut brine is enough to inoculate the ferment and it will acidify as well as anything else.