Michigan Fresh:Using, Storing, and Preserving Onions (HNI24)

Learn to preserve and store Michigan onions to enjoy them year round. Michigan green onions are available June through September. The other onions are available August through January.

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Using, Storing and Preserving Onions

Recommended varieties 

  • White sweet:  Candy and Walla Walla, Sweet Spanish. 
  • Red Sweet:  Cabernet. 
  • Small:  Crystal Wax.
  • Varieties for storage:  Pontiac and Spartan Banner.

Storage and food safety

Onions for fresh use can be harvested at any time during their growth. Bulb onions store best in cool, dry storage. For dry storage, remove the dry tops to within 1to 3 inches from the top of the bulb.  Remove any loose dirt and trim the roots.  Leave the outer protective dry skin in place around the bulb.   In cool, dry storage with temperatures between 35 and 55 degrees F. and a relative humidity of 50 to 60 percent, the onions should store for 1 to 8 months.

Yield 

1 bunch (5-8) green onions with tops = 1 cup sliced
1 small white or yellow onion (3 oz.) chopped = 1/3 to 1/2 cup
1 medium white or yellow onion (4-5 oz.) chopped = 1/2 to 2/3 cup
2 large white or yellow onions or 3 medium (1 lb.) = 2 to 2 1/2 cups chopped

How to Preserve

Freezing

Preparation:  Choose mature bulbs and clean as though the bulb was going to be eaten.

Blanch in boiling water whole mature bulbs for 3 to 7 minutes or until the center is heated.  Cool immediately, drain, and package.  If using a rigid container, leave ½ inch headspace.  Seal, label, and freeze onions.  The onions will be suitable only for cooking.

If chopped onions are to be frozen, they do not need to be blanched.  Simply chop the onions into desired amounts, seal, label, and freeze in rigid containers or plastic freezer bags.  The onions will be suitable only for cooking.

Green onions: Young green onions may be chopped for salads and sandwiches and frozen without blanching, but after thawing they will not be crisp and may be slightly tough.  Freezing the onions will intensify the flavor.

Onion rings:  Wash, peel, and slice onions.  Separate the rings.  Blanch in boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds.  Cool immediately, drain, and coat with flour.  Next, dip in milk.  Coat the onion rings with a mixture of equal parts cornmeal and pancake mix.  Arrange as a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Freeze.  Then pack the rings in layers in rigid containers, using plastic wrap to separate the layers.  Seal the containers, label, and freeze.  To prepare, fry frozen rings in hot oil (375 degrees F) until they are golden brown.

Note:  after 3 to 6 months at 0 degrees F, onions tend to lose their flavor.

Canning

Food safety tip:  Onions MUST be pressure canned for a specific period of time to avoid the potential of the food-borne illness botulism.

Hot Pack: Select onions of 1-inch diameter or less.  Wash and peel the onions.  Cover the onions with boiling water; bring to a boil.  Boil the onions for 5 minutes.  Pack the hot onions into clean hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace.  If desired, add ½ teaspoon of salt to pints, 1 teaspoon of salt to quarts. Remove air bubbles.  Wipe jar rims.  Adjust lids and process. Onions are best if consumed within 12 months.

Recommended process time for onions in a dial-gauge pressure canner at different altitudes.

Jar size Process time (min.) 0-2,000 ft. 2,001-4,000 ft. 4,001-6,000 ft. 6,000-8,000 ft.
Pints 40  11 12 13 14
Quarts 40 11 12 13 14

Recommended process time for onions in a weighted-gauge pressure canner at different altitudes.

Jar Size Process time (min.) 0-1,000 ft. Above 1,000 ft.
Pints  40 10 15
Quarts 40 10  15

For pickled onion recipes see:

  • The USDA Complete Home Canning Guide, 2009 revision.
  • So Easy to Preserve, 2006, bulletin 989, University of Georgia Extension.

References

  • How Much Should I Buy?  Michigan State University Extension.
  • Andress, Elizabeth and Judy A. Harrison. So Easy to Preserve. Bulletin 989, 6th edition. Cooperative Extension University of Georgia, 2014.
  • Wisconsin Safe Food Preservation Series, University of Wisconsin Extension.

More information

Prepared by: Christine Venema MSU Extension educator

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