Onion Marmalade

IMG_9832I know, right? Marmalade. Onion. Sounds weird. Think chutney, though, and all of a sudden it’s hotdogs, sharp cheddar & crisp crackers, alongside chops, grilled cheese toasties….the list is endless. Why is it called marmalade? No idea. Maybe because it’s very sugary, or because the lovely thin strands of sweetly pickled onions look like curls of orange rind in marmalade. Who knows. Whatever; it’s delicious with just about anything. Though maybe not ice cream. Mind you it is quite sweet….IMG_9823

A glut of organic onions having hit the Chopsticks kitchen recently, it was time to wheel out an old recipe of mine for Onion Marmalade (..thinking chutney still?) which, according to my scrawled notes, I once used in 2002. It’s in imperial measures because it’s an old recipe. I have made a concession to modernity in brackets in the ingredients list only, because I am, ultimately, a lazy cow. Deal with it. So here we go.


  • 4 pounds (1.8kg) onions, peeled
  • 1.5 pints (845ml) good cider vinegar
  • 2 pounds (900g) raw organic sugar (it doesn’t have to be raw organic but heck, the onions were good quality, why shouldn’t the sugar be?)
  •  3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 10 cloves
  • 10 star anise
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 6 cardomom pods
  • 2 dried chillies (go crazy if you like it hot)
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns


1) Chop your onions. This is a bucketload so I recommend using a processor with one of those slicing attachments if you have it; that way if you cut your onion in half like so:

IMG_9825and feed it sideways into your processor chute, you end up with lovely long slices a la marmalade strips. Pretty. It makes not one jot of difference to the taste though so hack ’em up however you see fit.

2) Place sliced onions and all the other ingredients into a large saucepan. The vinegar never looks enough here, and I always end up adding more. In this case, 1.3 pints, which I then have to boil off. I never learn. 1 pint would have done here.IMG_9824 IMG_9826

3) Bring to the boil, stirring steadily to dissolve the sugar.IMG_9827

See? Suddenly there is enough liquid.

4) Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 – 1.5 hours, or until it looks more like this:IMG_9829

5) Ladle carefully into sterilised jars and label when cold. You can pick out the larger spices first if you like.

6) Put the jars somewhere cool and dark for at least a month to pickle. Longer if you can. If you open one and it tastes like pickled onions, leave the rest another month at least. And I guess treat the jar you opened as…pickled onions!



Stupidity & Green Tomato Chutney

chutney6I had a glut of green tomatoes, caused entirely by stupidity.

Due to Attack Of The King Parrot, I lobbed a net over all my tomatoes a few weeks back. That kept the blighters off. Trouble is, it kinda kept me off too; I stopped nipping out side shoots and so on because it was a bit of a faff to negotiate the netting.

This weekend, as I surveyed the rampant growth issuing forth from every net hole, I realised I’d have to cut it out of there. And so I did, painstakingly. For about half an hour, until I realised the net cost about 5 bucks, and then I started hacking at it with a craft knife. Obviously.

In the resulting confusion, there were some green tomato casualties; about a kilo worth had grown through the netting, and had to come off.

So it was that I found myself yet again wondering what the hell to do with green tomatoes; and, just like every other year, the inner dialogue went like this:

“well, I could fry them, like in that film. Y’know, the one with the green tomatoes in the title*. But then, what would they go with? Frying seems like a faff. It’s not that healthy either, right? Maybe I should just make more chutney. And give it all away again, because I have shedloads of chutney already. Everyone loves my chutney though. So that’s OK then.”

And at this point, my heart sinks slightly, because, of all the preserving there is in the world, I like making chutney the least. It’s not the results, which are super; it’s the hours of prep and the eye watering boiling vinegar, and since we moved to Australia, the additional heat when it’s already kinda stuffy.

But no more. Now I’ve cracked it, you see. OK so the prep is still a bit boring, but the rest is cured by boiling the chutney outside on the barbecue. Yes folks, another fantastic use for the barbie side burner. So glad we bought that thing.

This recipe is adapted from Delia Smith’s; I’ve been using it successfully for years, it’s brilliant. I find she’s a bit light on spices generally for my tastes, so the below is a beefed up version.


  • 1.2 kg green tomatoes
  • 1.2 kg Granny Smith apples
  • 1 kg onions
  • a bulb of garlic
  • 500g sultanas
  • 500g soft brown sugar
  • 1.5 litres malt vinegar
  • 6 chillies, more if you like heat, less if you don’t
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger

Spice mix

  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon all spice berries
  • 2/3 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 cloves
  • 2/3 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • muslin square

Place all the spice mix ingredients into the centre of the muslin and tie into a little pouch with string. I have some of those silicone chicken trusser ties so I used 2 or 3 of those. You could just put the whole spices straight in, but I find it annoying to accidentally bite down on a whole peppercorn – or worse, coriander seeds.


Peel and rough chop the apples, onions and garlic. Core the apples too. chutney3

Lob the lot in a food processor and blitz until small but not mush. Whizz the sultanas too. Chop the chillies finely.chutney4

Pop the lot in to a large (preferably preserving) pan, and add all the other ingredients. I usually tie the spice bag to the pan, so that it hangs just under the level of the chutney, but you could let it bob about.


Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1.5 – 2 hours, or until you can run your spoon through and leave a channel that doesn’t quickly fill with vinegar. You’ll need to stir it often, and I like to give the bag a good squeeze occasionally to get all the spicey flavours out.

Fish out the spice bag at the end and chuck it out.  Spoon into sterilised jars whilst still hot and cover with sterile lids.chutney1

* upon reading this, Mr C positively recoiled and moaned – no more yucky fried green tomatoes. So I guess chutney was a given then….