Mother Earth Living

Canning and Preserving Herbs: Sweet Onion Preserves

By Maggie Oster
August/September 1995
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Makes 4 half-pints

Use this rich-tasting preserve as a sauce for grilled, broiled, roasted, steamed, or sautéed meats or vegetables, or as a sandwich spread. It’s a great way to prolong the short season of sweet onions to year round. If you prefer, thyme may be substituted for the tarragon.

• 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 3 pounds sweet onions, peeled and thinly sliced
• 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
• 2/3 cup tarragon white wine vinegar
• 1 cup dry white wine
• 1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves, minced
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

1. Warm the oil in a nonreactive pan over medium heat. Stir in the onions and sugar. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Add the vinegar and wine and cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes, or until the mixture is thick. Stir in the tarragon and pepper.

2. Prepare the jars, lids, and boiling-water bath. Fill the jars with the hot, thickened onion mixture, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims with a clean towel and attach the lids securely.

3. Place the jars in the boiling-water bath, and when the water returns to a boil, process for 15 minutes. Remove the jars, cool, label, and store.

(Adapted from Herbal Vinegar.)


Maggie Oster writes extensively about herbs, food, gardening, cooking, landscape design, flowers, and crafts. Her books include Recipes from an American Herb Garden (New York: Macmillan, 1993) and Herbal Vinegar (Pownal, Vermont: Storey Communications, 1994). When she’s not on the road, she’s in her garden or kitchen in Indiana or Kentucky.

Click here for the main article,  Canning and Preserving Herbs: 13 Recipes .








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