Monday, May 20, 2013

Sweeter Than You Think - Vidalia Onions

IMG_0321There was a sale on these sweet onions at our local market, and taking advantage of this great deal meant buying a bag.
Sure, we’ve tried them before but usually only buying 1 or 2 at a time.
Now, we had a 5 lb. bag which meant discovering new ways to enjoy them. (See recipe below).

But, first I wanted to learn more about WHAT makes these onions so special — and usually pricier than “regular” onions. And (as usual) wanted to share this knowledge.

NOW, I know that the Vidalia® Onion is Georgia's Official State Vegetable as ruled by the state legislature in 1990 AND is grown exclusively in a 20-county region in Georgia in a production area defined by state law and by the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

Moses Coleman is credited with “discovering” the sweet Vidalia Onion variety, which were first grown near Vidalia, Georgia in 1931. Coleman found that his onion crop was sweet, not hot and managed to get $3.50/50-pound bag (a big price then). Other GA farmers,unable to get a fair price for produce through the depression years, thought Coleman had found a gold mine. Soon, their farms were also producing the sweet, mild onion.

In the 1940's, the State of Georgia built a Farmer's Market in Vidalia. A small town at the juncture of some of South Georgia's most widely traveled highways. The market had a thriving tourist business; word spread as tourists gave the onions their now-famous name. 

Soon Vidalia Onions were on shelves in local Piggly Wiggly and A & P grocery stores. Through the 1950s and 60s, production grew slow, but steady and was at 600 acres by the mid-1970s. A push was made for Vidalia Onions to be distributed nationwide. Onion festivals became an annual event in Vidalia and nearby Glennville, GA and production grew 10X over the next decade.

Georgia's state legislature passed the “Vidalia Onion Act of 1986” which authorized a trademark for “Vidalia Onions” and defined a 20-county production area. The crop is planted annually September through February with 70,000 plants produced on each acre. Onions are available from late April through mid-November.

In 1990, controlled atmosphere (CA) technology used in the apple industry was adapted for Vidalia Onions. Now, 20,000,000 pounds can be put in CA storage for up to six months, extending the sale of Vidalia onions through the fall and holiday season.
AND, we enjoyed them in this recipe. It was easy and delicious served with chicken (first night) and  then with fish (second night).

Vidalia Onion Casserole
  • 3 or 4 Vidalia onions, peeled, sliced thin and ringed IMG_0326
  • 1/4 to 1/2 C butter
  • 1/4 C sour cream
  • 1 package Ritz crackers, crushed
  • 1 C Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, grated
In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté onions in butter until tender. Remove from the heat and stir in sour cream.

IMG_0328Spoon half into a greased 1-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Top with remaining onion mixture and crackers.
Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.


Cicero Sings said...

You can Carmelite a big batch and freeze them in small portions for pizza toppings, soup or whatever! Love them.

Sandra said...

i am from GA and my parents loved these things and so does my hubby. i buy Ken's Vidalia Onion dressing for him to use on his salad. I do not eat them sweet or not sweet because they taste like onions. and taste and taste and taste... but they LOOK good and hubby would love whatever you do to them...

Pat transplanted to MN said...

We eat them sliced fresh on salads and or as a garnish. They are wonderful. Will try your recipe sometime soon. Sounds good.Love the vidalia season/

Doris said...

Sounds good! I'm sure my hubby would love it. I want to try the recipe our friend Mildred posted too. Have to see if the onions are on sale around here this week...hope they are!

Rebecca said...

I love anything made with onions. Make some French onion soup. And then tell me how to do it!

Daisy said...

I'm not a big fan of onions, but this sounds like something I might like.

possum said...

Once we found Vidalias we never bought any other onion except for the very rare Bermuda onion for the color in a salad or for Buffalo burgers.
I grow sweet onions here. They are smaller but delicious.

NCmountainwoman said...

We love these onions but I've never tried an onion casserole. I'll try this one for sure.

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