By Blake Carter
UGA Extension agent
Hello, Effingham County!
If you are like me, you mark this time of the year for Vidalia onions. They are one of my favorite vegetables to cook and eat.
I am a die-hard Vidalia onion fan and, since I have been here for a little while, I guess it is time for me to share with y’all that I am a former New Born Sweet Onion King/Prince. Basically, it is a big deal to me and my hometown so it is only right Ithat tell y’all a few tricks to help store and cook them!
Vidalia Sweet Onions
It is no secret Vidalia onions are very different than your average white or yellow onion.
One of the ways that makes them different is a higher water content of the actual onion. It is one of the characteristics that lends to that sweet taste we know and love.
This past week, Vidalias came into season. Naturally, we can start buying them at grocery stores all around.
What stumped me for the longest time was buying a giant bag of onions and just using one or two before they all go bad. That was until I came across some tips that a fellow Extension agent in the Family and Consumer Sciences department shared with me.
Fresh Vidalia Sweet Onions can actually be stored in a number of ways, one being simply inside your veggie drawer of the refrigerator.
Take each bulb and wrap them in a dry paper towel to help manage moisture, and make sure to place them in the crisper with all vents closed. This is the easiest way to extend the life of your sweet onion.
This is not a guarantee that all onions stored like this will last months on end, but it will significantly increase their “shelf life.”
One of the most interesting tips I have seen that works is to actually put your Vidalias in clean pantyhose. Yes, pantyhose.
Take each bulb and put them in one at a time, tying a knot in between each bulb. You can hang these in a DRY cool place that is well ventilated. Each time you need one, just cut the under the knot of the bulb you need!
Extra important as well, do not store them with potatoes; it can make them spoil faster.
Now that was for use of fresh onions. What about if you want to just cook with them? Well, you are in luck because there are options for that as well!
Freezing or drying are two of the simplest ways to store Vidalias for cooking. The ones you keep in the refrigerator are good for fresh toppings to hot dogs, hamburgers or fresh salads, but the ones you choose to freeze would be for cooking purposes only as freezing will actually change the texture of the actual onion.
The first way to freeze would be to chop the onions and lay them on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Once frozen, remove them from the sheet and place them in a freezer container or bag. You can pull out the amount you need for the recipe as needed.
Freezing whole onions is just as simple, peel, wash and core the onions and then put them inside freezer bags and place them inside the freezer. As for drying, chop the onion and place on a cookie sheet, bake on the LOWEST temperature setting possible until dry but not brown. These can be stored at room temperature in air tight containers.
Storage is covered so what about recipes?I could sit here and talk recipes all day long with you. I will share one of my favorites and include some links to a few other places to get some more ideas as well.
Growing up, one of my fondest memories is eating onion rings from the local churches at the Glennville Sweet Onion festival. (FYI the Glennville Sweet Onion Festival is Saturday. Glennville is only a hop and a skip away!)
It is hard to recreate that taste — something is just different about fried onions from the Lord’s house — but the closest thing I have had to them is a recipe that actually bakes the onion rings instead of frying them!
The first link below is to that very recipe. That website also has a bunch of other amazing recipes to use Vidalia Onions in, including a mouthwatering, butter filled, baked onion. https://www.realsweet.com/recipes/realsweet-vidalia-baked-onion-rings www.vidaliaonion.org/recipes https://www.southernliving.com/food/kitchen-assistant/vidalia-onion-recipes
That wraps up some of the helpful tips for storing Vidalia Sweet Onions and I hope y’all try some of these recipes out. I am telling you now, it is mind blowing the things you can do with this sweet Georgia Gem, the Vidalia Sweet Onion.
Next time I will cover some other in-season produce. Stay safe and enjoy this time to reconnect with some of the passions in your lives that sometimes get overlooked like cooking and gardening!
Instead of a Joke this week I have a song for y’all: “Vidalia” By Sammy Kershaw