Don’t shed tears over onions

When cutting onions you can use some simple tips so that you aren’t crying because of them.

Onions have long been a staple food. They are used in a wide range of ethnic cuisines and traditional American fare. From soups and sandwiches to appetizers, salads and more; onions add color, texture and flavor to our menus.

Fresh Michigan green onions are available June through September and storage onions are available the rest of the year. Fresh green onions have a thin, light colored skin, while the storage onions are protected by multiple layers of thick, dark skin.

Fresh green onions are routinely sweeter and milder than the storage onions because they have a high water and sugar content. This also makes them more susceptible to bruising. The storage onion has a stronger flavor and is less prone to bruising.       

Onions are easy to work with, particularly if you follow these tips:

  1. In order to reduce tearing when slicing onions, chill them first for 30 minutes.
  2. High heat makes onions bitter. Always use low or medium heat when sautéing onions.
  3. Simmer onions in broth instead of butter to lower fat content.
  4. For milder onions soak in milk or pour boiling water over slices. Let them stand for 30-40 minutes, then refresh them in an ice water bath.
  5. Reduce tearing when slicing onions by cutting off the tops, peel off the outer layers and leave the root end intact. The root end has the largest concentration of sulfuric compounds which make your eyes tear.
  6. Chopped or sliced onions can be frozen and used later in cooked dishes. Freezing makes them too limp for fresh use.
  7. Get rid of the smell of onions from your hands or cooking equipment by rubbing them with lemon juice (or salt, if the pots or pans are made of aluminum, cast iron or carbon-steel).
  8. To get rid of onion breath, eat parsley.

Onions can be preserved by freezing, drying or canning and can later be used in soups, stews, casseroles and a wide variety of ways during the cold winter months. Chopped onions are extremely easy to preserve because they do not need to be blanched. Simply chop the onions into desired amounts, seal, label and freeze in freezer boxes or freezer bags. They will be limp so they will only be suitable for cooking.

To learn more about using, storing and preserving onions visit the Michigan Fresh site on the Michigan State University Extension website. There you will also find many useful fact sheets on Michigan foods.

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