For the pathetic story of The Great Teacher Gift Debacle of '10, go HERE. When will I ever learn my lesson?
Great Teacher Gift Debacle Day One - Tuesday:
After much hemming and hawing, I finally decided on what I would make to give as gifts for all of Jude's various teachers/aides/coaches/nuns for Christmas - Sweet Onion Bacon Balsamic Marmalade. Sounds divine, right? Sweet/savory goodness, and it includes both bacon and wine, my two favorite food groups. What could go wrong?!
It was at this point, that a certain amount of math became necessary. And I fear that math is an area in which I do not excel. But I had to do some figuring: in order to fill 12 pint jars...how many cups in a pint?...how many pounds would make a cup?...how many onions per cup...mmmmmultiplication...dddddivision...okay. In order to fill 12 pint jars, I would need to quadruple the recipe and therefore purchase...drumroll...16 pounds of onions.
Yes, I know.
Luckily, the Ralphs had onions on sale for only $.50 a pound, so I picked up my onions, a big jug of red wine and an even bigger jug of balsamic vinegar and headed home, ready to begin my canning adventure.
Great Teacher Gift Debacle Day Two - Wednesday:
After dropping Jude at school in the morning, I set right to work.
"Hmmm" I said to myself "Maybe I should cook the marmalade in batches. That might be the prudent and wise thing to do. Naaaaaahhh. I'll just dump it all in and do it in one big batch."
And so I began chopping my 16 pounds of onions. Actually, slicing, to be accurate. The recipe said I was to "thinly slice" my 16 pounds of onions. Now don't think I dove into this without any forethought. I cleverly armed myself with...
...Jude's swim goggles. Wasn't I clever?! I thought of taking a picture of myself wearing them for you, dear readers, but I'm afraid they were just too unattractive to compromise myself in that way.
I did, however, take pictures for you, because certainly, this would make an excellent blog post, impressing you all with my outstanding homemaking skills. Oh look, here are a bunch of onions...
Golly, it takes a very long time to chop 16 pounds of onions. A very, very long time.
It was at this point that I realized that I didn't have a pot large enough to cook 16 pounds of onions at the same time. Silly me. Did this deter me? Did this make me think that perhaps I should prepare my marmalade in batches? NO. I decided to use my largest pot, and just add them gradually, thinking that they'd sort of shrink down as they cooked, and eventually I could get all of them in the pot.
This didn't work. So then I thought that I'd try cooking them in my turkey roaster.
This didn't work either. So I finally divided them between two pots. But...since the two pots were of different sizes, it was a little hard to figure out proportions. Oh no...more math...
Eventually, I had added all the ingredients, and my two big ass pots of onions were bubbling away...
According to the recipe, I was to "cook over medium heat until vicious." I have no idea what this means. I have done extensive internet research, and nowhere on the World Wide Web is there a glossary of culinary terms which lists "vicious". I assumed this meant...done.
So I cooked me some onions. And cooked and cooked. And cooked. Strangely, nothing even close to viciousness was achieved. They never reached anything even close to...marmalade. Thin. Runny. Tasty, yes. But marmalade? No.
By now, it was 3:00 in the afternoon, and I had to drive to Santa Monica for an audition. Damn. So I decided to just turn the stove off, and leave this mess sitting there until I got back. Maybe it would achieve viciousness while I was gone.
While sitting, waiting to go in on my audition, I suddenly realized that I reeked, no...REEKED of onions. It was emanating from my hair, my clothes, my pores. People were trying to discreetly move away from me.
When I finally got back home, it was 5:30. I eagerly checked my onions. Nothing.
I continued to cook them for another HOUR. Nothing.
I stubbornly consolidated my two giant pots of onion syrup into one pot, and stuck it in the refrigerator. I'd think about it tomorrow.
Great Teacher Gift Debacle D ay Three - Thursday:
I woke up much more clearheaded, and realized that I had to just start over again. Sigh...
I went back to the Ralphs and bought ANOTHER 16 pounds of onions. But this time, I carefully bagged them into 4 4-lb bags - this time, I was going to go for batches.
I sliced. And sliced.
Luckily, a 4 pound batch is actually doable, and eventually, I achieved a nicely vicious marmalade. Which filled...three jars.
"But Gretchen" you ask "why didn't you cook two small batches at the same time?"
Good question. That is because my largest pot was still in the refrigerator, filled with my first 16 pounds of onions which I stubbornly believed I could still use for something productive.
But by the end of the day on Thursday, I had still only completed TWO batches of marmalade - 6 jars. Which meant that I had to get rid of the old pot of onion goop so that first thing the next morning, I could cook my last two batches.
It was at this point that I had a fairly non-Christmas-spiritlike fit. I started to yell and bang pots around. If those onions wouldn't get vicious, I WOULD. I then dramatically emptied the entire old pot of onion goop into the sink and put it down the disposal. Whiiiiiiiiiiiiirirrrr. Very satisfying. But then...
The sink clogged.
I ran the disposal. I plunged. I screamed. I kicked the wall. I dumped in two jugs of Liquid Plumber.
None of these things helped to dislodge the 16 pounds of onion glue which I had stupidly poured down the sink.
I called the plumber, but they'd already left for the day.
I refused to panic. I could still get up in the morning and call the plumber first thing. Then I could start my two pots cooking and still get it all ready by 11:30, when Jude's school let out for the holidays.
The only problem was that I still had to wash my two giant pots, which were encrusted with onion muck, and I didn't have a sink. So I took my pots outside, and squatted by the hose. In the rain.
Great Teacher Gift Debacle Day Four - Friday:
When I woke up and entered the kitchen, I was greeted by a true Christmas Miracle - the sink was cleared. I don't know if the pipes just kind of digested all that onion or if those two jugs of Liquid Plumber finally worked their way through and did their job, but that sink was clear. HALLELUJAH!
The rest of the story was thankfully uneventful. I started slicing at about 7:00 am, and managed to get the rest of the marmalade cooked, cooled and canned by 11:30. I glued the last label on the last jar, stuck it in a box and drove to that school.
The result? Miraculously, Gretchen's Sweet Onion Bacon Balsamic Marmalade is delicious. And the labels turned out pretty cute too. Sadly, the only picture I managed to take was this pathetic thing, which I think is representative of my state of mind...
Hmmm. What shall I make next year? If I start now, I can certainly come up with something truly, shockingly messy and unwieldy. 20 pounds of Spicy Pecans? A couple of gallons of homemade lemoncello? The possibilities are endless. Ideas?
Sweet Onion Bacon Balsamic Marmalade
3 slices bacon (thick cut)
4 lbs. onion (sliced thin)
2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups red wine
1 cup balsamic vinegar
Place a large, non-reactive pan over medium-low heat. Add the bacon. The goal is to render the fat. Once the bacon has crisped, remove. And...eat it.
Turn up the heat to medium-high, add the onions, salt and olive oil. Sti9r to make sure the onions are coated with the oil and bacon fat. Cook covered with a tight lid for abou 20 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes, until the onions begin to turn golden brown.
Add the sugar, brown sugar, red wine and balsamic vinegar. Cook over medium heat until vicious.
Remove from heat and let cool before storing. Place in glass jars. Refrigerate.