Thursday, January 3, 2013

Cooked Onion Syrup

When I was a little kid and would get a cold, or the first hint of a cold, the last thing I wanted to do was let my Grandma Jeanette know I was sniffling.  It would certainly mean a dose of Onion Syrup.  My stomach would turn as Grandma sliced up onions and put them on the stove to simmer with some sugar and water.  

Onion Syrup has a flavor all its own, and it isn't one I really cared for when I was a little kid, despite its magical abilities to boot a virus right out of the system.  At least that was Grandma's story for dosing my sister and I up with the stuff at the first hint of sniffles.  

As a result of my distaste for Onion Syrup from the stove, I didn't pay a whole heck of a lot of attention to how, exactly, Grandma made it.  I know there were finely-sliced onions and sugar and water, and that the works was simmered on the stove.  I don't think there was more to it than that.  Besides, getting a cold when I was in school meant that it could possibly turn into a Bad Cold, or maybe an Ear Infection, and that meant I could stay home from school for a day or two.  Not that I loved being sick or hated school, but a little unexpected break, a chance to stay home and watch The Price Is Right and whatnot, was always a welcome change from the usual grind.

Now that I'm older, and getting a cold means no such thing as a day off, but instead a week or two of going about my regular daily activities carrying around the misery brought to me by a stuffed-up nose, aching head, sore throat, cough, and any other of a long list of cold symptoms, I will do anything to avoid the Virus of the Month Club. 

I will do anything to avoid getting sick, including making and feeding myself cooked Onion Syrup!

Seeing how I'm only a recent convert to the Onion Syrup scheme, and seeing how Grandma's forgotten how to make Onion Syrup (and a lot of other things- horrible, unfair Alzheimers Disease!), I've had to do some sleuthing on the World Wide Web to see if I can come up with a recipe that's close to hers.  The best I can find are a bunch of variations on a recipe for uncooked onion syrup, made with onions, sugar, and water, and all that is allowed to set out in a jar until needed.  It takes overnight to make.  This version just won’t do. 

After some experimenting, I think I’ve come up with a version similar to Grandma’s.  It isn’t so much a recipe as a bunch of ingredients thrown together.  It tastes just like Grandma’s cooked Onion Syrup (it’s funny how the taste has improved after all these years!), it’s hot and soothing, I’m pretty sure it’s responsible for nipping a budding cold and getting right rid of it, before Christmas, and it’s ready in just a few minutes.  No overnight waiting when you’re fearing a virus coming on!

Here’s my sort-of recipe for Onion Syrup, which makes a single serving in a coffee mug:

1.     Slice a small onion VERY thin.  Do you get fundraiser hoagies, ever?  Have you noticed how thin the onions are sliced for fundraiser hoagies?  THAT’s how thin you’re going for.  If you don’t have a small onion, slice up the equivalent of a small onion.

2.     Put the super-thin onion slices in a small saucepan.  The smallest one you have.  Cover with water.

3.     Add a tablespoon or two of sugar.  The amount of sugar is really up to you.  However much you like.  I’ve never actually measured, but I poured right out of my sugar dispenser, and it looked like I’d used about two tablespoons.  You can use more or less.

4.     Bring the water, with the onions and sugar to a boil.  It won’t take long, especially on low-pressure days.  When the water comes to a boil, turn the heat back and keep the mixture at a lively simmer, stirring constantly. 

5.     Let the liquid thicken a little bit.  It won’t be “syrupy” or sticky, but a little thicker than just water.  If you hate onions, you can strain just the liquid into a coffee mug and drink it.  If you don’t mind the onions, pour the whole works from the saucepan into your mug and drink up.

Now, Grandma Jeanette would never approve, but I added a splash of bourbon to my mug of hot onion syrup.  So if you want to try adding a little of your favorite spirit- not too much- give it a whirl.

I think there’s definitely a placebo effect going on with the Onion Syrup.  I believe it’s going to keep me well, so it does.  But I also think that there’s some sciency mumbo-jumbo going on.  Onions have a lot of vitamins in them.  They’re great for you!  But chowing down on a raw onion like it’s an apple is a feat of strength few of us could really do.  Especially with these sassy “sweet” onions I’ve been getting my hands on lately.  So you mix it with sugar to make it easier to get down, and cook it in some hot water, the steam from which is really soothing if you have or are coming down with a cold, and a little belief in home remedies, and voila. 

It’s worth a try, don’t you think?

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