M: The soil around Vidalia, Georgia has a certain quality…the sulfur content of the soil is very low, resulting in an unusually sweet, mellow onion. That quality is special enough that the Georgia State Legislature passed the “Vidalia Onion Act of 1986”. Also supported by the U.S Dept. of Agriculture, it says that unless an onion is grown there or in one of the 20 surrounding counties, it cannot be called a Vidalia, which has been the sweet onion of record since 1931.
Shopping the farmers market, I find one local vendor places “Vidalia” in quotes on his sign. Another says “Vidalia Style”. Others are “Like Vidalia” or “Sweeter than Vidalia”. Indeed, those watchdogs at the Vidalia Onion Committee have eyes everywhere. I went with the boldest of all, “Better Than Vidalia”.
I put this on pretty much everything for a few days there. A friend dropped off some mahi mahi after a successful fishing trip to the Outer Banks. Grilled with little fanfare and topped with tomato and this puree, it became a standout.
K: Living as far as I do from the sandy bottomlands where these are grown, Vidalia spring onions were not an option for me here, not even ‘like Vidalia’, so I faced a dilemma…local spring onions in our CSA box?….or the mature Vidalias at my local market? Which of these was more important to the spirit of this recipe? I’m not actually a huge fan of the Vidalia onion. I generally find them to be a bit TOO sweet for me, but my grandfather loved the hell out of them and he grew them every year. In the end I decided that the Vidalias seemed more important and opted for the market run, and I am very happy I did. When I finshed the puree and took my first taste, I was suddenly, shockingly transported to my grandparents kitchen table – apparently I grew up eating this and never even realized it. It was just ‘gravy’, just like every other sauce that went on top of food…..not unlike, I guess, the way all sodas are called ‘Coke’ back home. As in…’Y’all want some coke, honey? We have Coke, Sprite, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper…..” In the two days since I made this, not only have I put it on everything from grilled pork chops to roasted asparagus to scrambled eggs, I’ve also realized that while we ate a vast variety of gravies growing up, I don’t think anyone called them anything but gravy until…well…until someone started teaching me how to make them. And yet somehow, this one never got covered….perhaps too humble? I’d like to rectify that. Y’all make this….and pass it on. It’s pretty amazing how something so simple can be so good.
Recipe: Spring Onion Puree
Summary: This simple, unassuming recipe allows its fresh ingredients do the driving, to terrific result. Spring onions are onions harvested while still immature. With a bulb generally less than 2″, they are characteristically tender and sweet and still have healthy long green stems. Adapted from the The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook
- 2 1/2 lb Spring Onions (tops removed)
- 4 T Butter (K: I used reserved bacon fat, because what’s better than bacon and onions? Nothing.)
- 5 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
- Salt and Pepper
- Cut bulbs into 1/4″ slices.
- Melt butter in a large skillet at medium heat.
- Add onions and stir to coat, season with salt and pepper and add thyme.
- Stir occasionally until onions become translucent.
- Remove from heat and discard thyme stems.
- Transfer onions to food processor and puree.
- Adjust seasoning and serve warm.
Note: This also stores well in the fridge for several days and reheats well, so it can be made ahead without affecting the flavor.