Christmas Countdown Gifts: Caramelised Red Onion Chutney

5 weeks to Christmas. Was it not yesterday that it was 6 weeks? I need the week to slow down just a little bit. I still have lots to do. 

For this week’s Christmas Gift Idea I’m bringing you big lovely jars of caramelised red onion chutney. I made multiples batches of this last year to give to friends and colleagues at work and it went down really well. I feel like it will be one of my go-to Christmas food gifts each year. We kept a cheeky small jar for ourselves and ate it with a cheese tray as Christmas Day drew to a close. 

This recipe might make you cry. It will make you smell like onions and balsamic vinegar, which is not a bad thing in my opinion. In fact, I would like you all the more for it. When I made it last year and had to chop 8 large onions it was very hard not to cry. When I did it last night it seemed to be easier. Maybe I’ve become hardened to onions from years of chopping. When Nick and I cook, my job always seems to be chief chopper. I get to take charge when baking but I’m relegated to chopper when there’s meat involved.

I think this is a fantastically simple recipe. It does require about an hour of cooking but you don’t need to stand by the pan vigilantly for the whole time. I put one chilli in, if you want more of a kick put 2 in or include more of the seeds but I felt like the balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar had enough kick without adding extra spice. 

If you hunt around enough you can get jars for fairly cheap. Whenever I have finished a jar of something I keep it, wash it out and sterilise it in the dishwasher. The only thing that gives you away is the name on the lid but if that really bothered you it’s easy to paint over it with a decent acrylic. You can buy a decent sized kilner jar (the large jar in the picture) for £2 in Sainsbury’s. Last year I ordered mine from Harts of Stur. They do six 300ml plain jam jars for £3.50 and only £2 P&P. So it’s about 92p per jar including postage. I’ll be stocking up on these jars again as I’ll most likely be making another batch. 

Caramelised Red Onion Chutney
(Recipe from The Super Jam Cookbook by Fraser Doherty)
Makes 4-6 jars

8 red onions
1 red chilli
2 bay leaves
25ml olive oil
200g brown sugar
150ml balsamic vinegar
150ml red wine vinegar

  1. Cut your onions and chilli into short, thin slices and put them into a pan with the bay leaves and oil. Cook gently over a low heat for about 20 minutes. I used my largest pan and it was full to the brim but it does cook down so don’t worry.
  2. Once the onions are dark and sticky, add the sugar and the vinegars and simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the chutney is thick and dark.
  3. Pour the chutney into hot, sterilised jars, put the lid on and let it cool. The bit on the lid that pops up and down once you’ve opened it will go back down as the heat from the jar seals it up again.
  4. The chutney is best if you leave it for a month to let the flavour really develop so it’s probably best to make it in the next 2 weeks if you feel like making it for Christmas. 
It’s not just cheeseboard fodder, although cheese is really the best thing to serve it with. I’m using some this week on grilled halloumi and ciabatta for dinner tonight and then spread on puff pastry and topped with goats cheese for a tart to serve with salad.