Cooking With Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic are easy to grow and indispensable in any kitchen. They’re also very easy to store, so make space for plenty in your patch, and you’ll be enjoying them for months after harvest. If you want to show off your crops, try our easy recipes.

Growing Onions and Garlic

Onions are usually grown from sets, which are baby onions that will mature within one season. Growing them from seed takes two seasons and more attention. Onion sets are cheap enough to make the convenience affordable. Onions and garlic like well‐drained soil with plenty of potash and a neutral pH. Sprinkling wood ash into the trenches pre‐planting is a good idea.

Onion sets and garlic cloves should be planted with their tips peeking over the top of the soil. This makes them very appealing to birds! So it’s a good idea to cover the bed lightly with netting for the first few weeks, until the sets start to show green shoots. Then you can remove it so the shoots don’t get caught up in the net later.

Onions and garlic heads are ready when the leaves seem to die back and fold over. Harvest them all at once, choosing a dry, sunny day, and spread out to dry in the sunshine. They will appreciate a long drying time so the skins become dry for storage – so if you can spread them out again the next day, or hang them with lots of air space, that will help. You can tie up onions and garlic on a plait to store in a cool shed.

Garlicky Roasted Chicken

This is a wonderful way to show off your home‐grown garlic ‐ and it might eclipse your favourite roast chicken recipes. Roasting renders soft, sweet bulbs that can be mashed into the gravy for a great flavour.

  • 6 heads of home‐grown garlic
  • 1 chicken
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Split the garlic into cloves, but leave them in their papery skins. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole dish and gently brown the chicken. Drain off excess fat and pour in the wine, then arrange the garlic cloves all around the chicken. Bring to a gentle heat over the hob, then transfer the casserole – covered now – to the oven. Cook for 45‐60 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked (test the juices from a thigh to see that they run clear). Remove the chicken from the pot and rest for 5 minutes before cutting. If making gravy, use the juices and garlic in the pot – otherwise just serve the chicken with potatoes and cloves of garlic to be squeezed out onto plates.

Easy Pickled Onions

Pickling onions seems like a complex task – but it’s really only the peeling that takes any time. Be prepared for some crying in the kitchen! After you’ve packed them into jars, the onions need to mature in a cool place for at least 2 months. A jar of home‐pickled shallots makes a great Christmas present!

  • Per 1litre jar: approx. 1lb baby onions, or shallots
  • Per 1litre jar: 1tbsp sugar and approx 150ml distilled or pickling vinegar
  • Peppercorns (green, black, pink, or a mixture)
  • Dried chillies, 2‐5 (optional)

First, prepare the onions or shallots. Have ready a large bowl half‐filled with water, in which you’ve dissolved about 2tbsp salt (to create a brine). Peel the baby onions and drop into the water. Leave them to soak overnight.

Next prepare the jars and vinegar. Wash your jars in warm, soapy water (or the dishwasher) and put them into a warm oven to sterilise. Meanwhile, pour the vinegar, sugar and peppercorns into a saucepan and bring gently to simmering point. Switch off and leave to cool.

Finally, pour a little vinegar into the bottom of your warm jar and add the baby onions, arranging them so you can pack in as many as possible. Top up with vinegar – it should cover the uppermost onions – and seal tightly (a rubber seal or metal lid will give an airtight seal). Tip upside down and leave the jars to cool before labelling. Store for 3 months before eating.

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