The gentle art of preservation

I think I planted a few too many of these this year and have limited space in my garden shed/veg store. What’s a girl to do when she has a stall at a Christmas Fayre to stock and an overwhelming desire to stay indoors? Red onion marmalade , of course.

The health benefits of  onions in improving the circulation, relaxing muscles, reducing cholesterol and even preventing cancer are well-documented and red ones are particularly good.  What you may not know is that rubbing raw onion on burns or insect bites brings relief  – although I prefer the sweeter smelling aloe vera plant for this. And even crying whilst chopping onions helps to release harmful toxins from the body. What’s not to love – provided that you’re not doing a lot of intensive kissing, of course?

Chutney and marmalade making is highly therapeutic. In fact, it’s as valuable a part of my workshops with sufferers of post-natal depression as the outdoorsy bit.  All that rhythmic chopping and stirring whilst watching the world go by can’t fail to improve your mood. And  having something to show for your labours which is beautiful to look at and sustaining over the Winter months is part of the deal.

Here’s how to while away an hour or two steaming up the kitchen windows on a rainy day and leave yourself with a shelf full of jewelled pots of goodness for the months ahead.


10 – 12 large red onions, thinly sliced
6 teaspoons olive oil or butter
450g muscovado sugar
100 ml red wine vinegar
550ml cheap balsamic vinegar
a few cloves, sprig of rosemary, 4 fresh bay leaves, 2 cinammon sticks ,  salt and freshly ground pepper


In a large preserving pan, heat the oil or butter. Add the red onions, bay leaves, rosemary,and cinammon sticks and cook over moderate heat for about 25 mins or until the onions begin to caramelise.

Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar and stir vinegar into the pan with the cloves. Increase the heat and stir often, until most of the liquid has evaporated,. Remove the herbs and spices. Season to taste with salt and pepper and pot in sterilised jars.

Makes about 12 small – medium jars.  Keeps for 3 months

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