How to Preserve Onions for Winter

My friend Anji Sandage has some great suggestions for taking advantage of the flood of onions each autumn, like we are experiencing now. I asked her to write a guest blog for me, and she obliged :) I've added a few notes too. Here is Anji:

 If you have an abundance of onions -- and with it being fall you just might if you grew onions in your garden, or bought a bunch from a farmer -- you may have more than you can use right away. Onions can be stored fresh, but will start going moldy after about 2 or 3 months if they are not handled properly, and the sweet varieties do not last as long in storage as other varieties do.

To store onions fresh for up to 3 months without them getting moldy or sprouting , here are a few tips:

-Never store onions and potatoes together
-Do not store onions in plastic bags
-Keep onions in a dark, cool, dry storage area, such as a kitchen drawer or a basement storage room.

Onions just left together in a bin will start to go bad after a month or so, even when stored in a dry, cool, dark place, and storing onions in the refrigerator poses other problems, including the transfer of the onion smell to other produce for one, and a loss of flavor and texture after a while is another.

If you keep your onions in a brown paper bag with holes punched in it, they will last up to 3 months. There is a blog post on the Yummy Life blog that has some great tips for storing onions for up to 3 months here:

But, what if you have, say, three or four 30-lb. bags of onions that you just got for really cheap through a farm co-op or a group buy? [note from Caleb: Where I live, 25-lb. bags of onions are on sale right now for $4 and change!] In this case, 3 months may not be long enough. You may want to freeze them. Onions when frozen will last much longer than 3 months, especially if they are vacuum sealed.

To freeze your onions, the first thing you want to do is peel and chop them. Nothing like chopping a 30-lb bag of onions to make you cry – but there are a few things that you can do to minimize the tears

-Don't touch your face after chopping onions until you have washed your hands.
-Don’t breathe the onion fumes though your mouth – as much as you are tempted, it’s better not to hold conversations while chopping onions. I’m not sure why this is, but the waterworks start as soon as I start talking to someone while chopping onions.
-Keep some cold water running close by – If my eyes are stinging, bending close to the faucet with cold water running really seems to help.
-Keep your onion pieces together while chopping to prevent as much of the oils from escaping into the air. The tighter I keep the pieces together, the less tears I seem to have. It works best if I peel the onion, then slice it in half, and then lay each half on its side and cut it in thin slices, hold the slices together, and then cut in thin slices again in the opposite direction. This allows the rings to work for you in that the structure of the onion has done most of the work for you and there is a lot less chopping to do.

[note from Caleb -- you'll have fewer tears from onions if you use a very sharp knife, which keeps the onion juices from splattering.]

Of course, if you have a food processor, that saves you a lot of work, and all you have to do is peel and quarter your onions, fill your food processor with the quartered onions, and then pulse until they are finely chopped. After the onions are chopped, there are a couple of different ways to do this – one involves small vacuum seal bags and a foodsaver. The other involves a greased muffin tin and gallon-sized Ziploc bags. Of course the vacuum sealed onions are going to last the longest, but not everyone has access to a vacuum sealer, and the bags can get expensive.

[note from Caleb - if you don't have a vacuum sealer, there is a self-sufficient answer: the Archimedes Principle. Put your chopped onions in a freezer bag, and lower the bag into water until only the top is not submerged, and seal the bag. This removes all the air.]

I have also found that the juice from the onions tends to get everywhere and even with the vacuum sealer on the moist setting, the bags sometimes will not seal because the onions get too juicy. Freezing the onions in muffin tins allows you to have a bag of ready to use ½ cup measures of onions that are easily accessible, and they still stay good for several months. I used lard from pasture raised pork to grease the muffin tin to make the onions come out easier after they have frozen. I also added a small amount of water into each measure of chopped onions so that the bits would stick together better in a cube (or my kids called them hockey pucks) after freezing.

Once the onions are frozen, just store the frozen onions together in a gallon sized Ziploc bag in your freezer, and when you need an onion, simply toss in one of your frozen ½ cup servings (or more if you like) into your cooking ground beef or into the slow cooker with your roast, or thaw it out beforehand and drain any excess liquid to use the onions in salads or other recipes.

Anji is the mother of 4 children, and a blogger at She is the chapter leader for the Salt Lake County chapter of The Weston traditional foods and herbal remedies, and works as a certified foot zone therapist.

1 comment:

  1. Your instruction is very clear and easy to follow.Thanks.
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