Leena Cooks and Cans: Caramelized Onion Jam…with a no-napping 2 month old

By on Aug 16, 2011 in Canning, Condiments, Jam, Leena Cooks, Recipes, Savory | 19 comments

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My caramelized onion jam with hints of balsamic and rosemary. Did you just get a mouth boner? Cuz I sure did.

So, I’m pretty sure I’m crazy. No sane person would ever try to can, let alone can jam, with a 2 month old. Especially one that refuses to nap for more than 20 minutes at a time and eats every hour and a half. What can I say? I like to roll dangerously close to the line of insanity for the sake of caramelized onions at my reach all year round. Making them from scratch every time is a bitch.

Is the jam ridiculously delicious? Hell yeah!

Was the process ridiculously hard with a baby? Fuckin’ eh.

But lucky for you, I came away with a few pointers for you other psycho moms out there interested in canning with babies. It is possible! My tips and the recipe after the jump.

 The highlights of my canning experience: there was a lot of crying at first, both from the baby for wet diapers and such, and from myself because of the massive amount of onions I chopped. You’d think I’d heard that Richard Simmons died, I was sobbing so hard.

The onions, pre-caramelization and post-making me cry like a little bitch.

The trick with the baby was prepping as much of the recipe in advance as possible, and having a team of baby distracters at your disposal. For example, one of my baby distracters is the crib, which has a musical mobile the baby loves to watch for roughly 15-20 minutes at a time. This is where I stuck the baby while I chopped the onions (which you won’t have to do if you prep them the night before. I did not. Learn from my mistakes.), because really? She’s got enough to cry about on her own without adding chopped onions to the mix.

My caramelized onions, which took over two hours. And these are light for my taste–I just got sick of the recipe taking so damn long!

While caramelizing the onions, which took FOREVER (almost three hours for six onions), I rotated the baby through her swing, her play mat, her Bumpo chair on the counter and finally, when she could stand to be away from me no longer, the mai tai baby carrier. And yes, I was super careful about getting too close to the stove with her on me. I even threw an apron on over her once she fell asleep to protect her from splatters. While caramelizing, I had to stop twice to feed her.

I am wearing a baby carrier, a baby and an apron in this photo. I give sexy new meaning.

Once I added the sugar and started cooking the jam, I had the baby in her bouncer in the kitchen with me, but not close to the stove (jam burns like the devil).

The jam just after adding the sugar and rest of the ingredients.

Another feeding, and then back into the bouncer she went so I could fill the jars and seal the cans in the canning pot.

The finished jam on a rosemary cracker. It’s also delicious on grilled cheese sandwiches and burgers.

Making and Canning Jam with a baby tips:

*Make a list of what to do and baby distracters you have. Be sure to mark in the recipe where you could stop to feed the baby without messing anything up.

*Buy ingredients before canning day (I didn’t do this, and it made for one LONG day)

*Prep all ingredients night before canning day, including measuring and chopping (Do it once baby goes to bed)

*Start jam, and after you caramelize the onions, turn on the stove so the canning pot will boil

*Start cans in dishwasher on short cycle(keep in dishwasher until right before you need them so they stay warm)

*Add the sugar and start simmering onions until jam holds a gel

*Fill jars and get into canning pot ASAP


: Leena’s Caramelized Onion Jam

: A delicious sweet and savory jam that is perfect with cheese, burgers, soups, whatever you like! This recipe was inspired by this one on the blog Market Life. This recipe has been tested for pH and is safe to water bath can.

  1. 4 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 6 onions, large diced
  3. 2/3 cup sugar
  4. 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (not the aged sweet stuff)
  5. 1/2 cup brandy
  6. 1/3 cup honey
  7. 7 sprigs fresh rosemary, stems removed
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet, add onions and cook until soft and translucent on medium high heat.
  2. Once softened, lower heat to medium or medium low, and continue to cook onions until brown and caramelized. This will take a while.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and simmer on low stirring occasionally until the jam reaches the gel point. To test jam, place a small plate in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. When jam starts to get thick, remove from heat and spoon a bit onto the frozen plate, and place back in freezer for 2 minutes. If the jam barely moves and looks like a proper jam, it is done. If the jam pools juice and looks loose, place pot back on stove until thicker and test again.
  4. Pour hot jam into clean hot quarter pint jars and boil in a water bath for 10 min (15 minutes for half pint jars). Let cool and store in a dark place. Refrigerate any excess. Yields 5 quarter pints

And if you want to reward yourself for working so hard canning with a baby, I highly suggest you cook up some burgers, top them with cheese and bacon, a bit of this jam, and some sour cream. Thank me later.

To see how I tested the pH of this jam, check out this post.


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  1. you’re insane, woman! insanely awesome, for making this stellar jam with a damn two month old on your belly! it looks so delicious!!

    • Leena

      1 Sep ’11

      Thanks, lady! Now you know how far I will whore myself out for a delicious bite of food. 

  2. Lora

    22 Aug ’11

    Post a Reply

    awww I love the pix with the baby under your apron. I love caramelized onions. This jam looks perfect.

    • Leena

      1 Sep ’11

      Thank you, Lora. Even though she couldn’t speak, I’m pretty sure the baby was equally grateful for the apron. 😉 You should give the jam a try–I’ve already gone through my first supply and need to can up another batch!

  3. Eve

    27 Aug ’11

    Post a Reply

    it looks and sounds incredible. And I so clearly remember those early days with a baby when you’d give anything for an extra pair of hands (or maybe just a full time, live in nanny)…

    • Leena

      1 Sep ’11

      Hi Eve. Ah, to have a full time nanny to do cooking prep work and to handle the baby whilst I fritter my time away cooking….that is the dream, sister. That is the dream.

  4. Deneen

    6 Sep ’11

    Post a Reply

    first time canner here – just whipped up a batch of this (if carmelizing onions for 3 hours can be considering ‘whipped up’). Can’t wait to pass it out to family & friends – but only those that will have a true appreciation!!

  5. You are my hero. The jam looks and sounds amazing and I can’t believe how you did it all with a baby. Thank you for sharing this, I’m definitely going to try it!

  6. Curious

    28 Feb ’14

    Post a Reply

    If I were to use my pressure canner, would this recipe be safe to can as is, or would I need to ph test? I don’t have any of the required instruments to PH test, but my understanding has always been that if you use a pressure canner, you are safe. I want to make this and save it for our long, cold, drippy utah winters, and have it with pears and chevre on crostini!!

    • Leena

      4 Mar ’14

      Hi Curious,
      While I could not find a source for this in my short search, I am almost positive you could use this recipe for pressure canning with little difference. If this was a pressure canning recipe, and you wanted to hot water bath can it, it would not work. But if there is enough acid in this recipe for it be safely canned at in a hot water bath canner (and there is), it should be more than enough for pressure canning, especially since pressure canning is a safe method to can low-acid foods.

  7. Beth

    20 Jun ’14

    Post a Reply

    Just made this with a Vidalia onions and it’s great! I was wondering about how many cups of diced onions you started with? Vidalia’s are huge so I was estimating.

    Thanks for the great recipe!

  8. Mia

    13 Jul ’14

    Post a Reply

    Consider transferring the onions to a heavy oven dish to continue cooking until carmelized after cooking on the stove top for about ten minutes. I got that idea from a Barefoot Contessa carmelized shallot recipe. Stir evey once in a while and line the pan with baker’s parchment for sanity. More time for mama and baby and way less work. Caio! Going to share your site with my daughter in law. She is two months pregnant with her first and I remember well what my son was like! well, maybe the baby will take after her. We can hope…

  9. Ben Remington

    1 Aug ’14

    Post a Reply

    Hi Leena! I’ve never canned before, but your recipe (and thorough testing) have inspired me with the confidence to try it. I can’t wait to pass this jam around over the holidays! Thanks so much for the great write up. Also, as the father of an 18 month old, I can’t help but be impressed with your helpful additional instructions for those with a baby. Why hadn’t I found your blog a year ago!?

  10. Kim Rau

    18 Aug ’14

    Post a Reply

    I have made a couple of batches of this and it is FABULOUS!!!! I did have to add a couple of tablespoons of no sugar pectin because I wanted it a bit thicker, but it was delicious! Next time I think that I will reduce the amount of rosemary because it was a little strong. Try it on a cheese burger (or pimento cheese burger!) for a rich, gourmet treat. I have already bought a bunch of the 4 ounce jars to give some away as gifts for Christmas.

  11. Anne Greensfelder

    1 Sep ’14

    Post a Reply

    I love the sound of your onion jam and I’m very impressed that you researched and purchased a suitable pH meter! However, I am wondering if you can give me a more accurate measure of the amount of onion in the recipe. I’ve grown these monster size onions this year and need to preserve them somehow before they rot and three of them would be way to much. Do you have any idea what the weight was of your onions, or the quantity in cup measures? thanks so much!

  12. Mike

    29 Sep ’14

    Post a Reply

    I was wondering what the yield is for this recipe. I was looking to give half-pint jars of this and sweet/spicy jalapeno jam as gifts and I want to make sure I make enough for them and for me. Also, I have always used pectin in my recipes for insurance; what are your thoughts on adding pectin to this recipe? Does it always jell up no problem without it?

  13. Needy!!!

    8 Oct ’14

    Post a Reply

    I need to know how many cups 6 large onions is!!
    I grow my own onions and harvested a lot of odd size to pearl size and need to make the” jamin” jam!

  14. Krista C

    2 Nov ’14

    Post a Reply

    I came across your post and blog because I am also in a desperate search for a shelf stable onion chutney/confit/preserve (anything NOT pickled). I intend to make this in bulk! I, too, and curious about a weight for the onions in this recipe. Also, since you have tested the pH for this recipe, is it necessary for us to test as well? I guess the question is whether the pH level might vary with the type of onion or if the pH is derived from the other ingredients (vinegar, brandy, etc).

    Thank you!!
    From a mom of four boys who can COMPLETELY relate to your experience and appreciates your perseverance 🙂

  15. Leena

    2 Nov ’14

    Post a Reply

    Hi guys. Hang tight re: weight of onions used. I’m going to make some next week to double check the weight, and will re-test the pH on it and report back here. Once I have updated the recipe, as long as you follow the recipe exactly (including how much oil to put in), you should not need to retest it, but you can if you have a pH meter. Thanks!


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