It seems like there are a lot of folks who are in love with their crock pots. I’m not really one of those people even though I like the idea of the crock pot. What’s not good about the idea of throwing in some food, working all day, and coming home to delicious food?
My problem is I kind of feel like things all taste the same. It’s chicken with some onion, potato and carrot. Or pork with some onion, potato and carrot. Or beef with some onion, potato and carrot. You get the idea. Delicious but mostly similar.
Once in a while I have had something like pulled pork or chili that mixes things up, but I’ve known for a long time that I was not getting the most out of this kitchen appliance. I had a crock pot that was dying and I really thought about whether it was worth it to get a new one. I decided that since they weren’t expensive, it was worth it. Even at a low price point, crock pots have really evolved. My new one has a digital readout and it’s very clearly high or low. It also has a warm function that holds food once done cooking. My old crock pot barely had a low/high dial and I had a couple of mishaps on the setting over the years. Plus, if you weren’t there at the end of the cooking time, it just kept cooking which does nothing for making a convenience product convenient.
I do like the crock pot for jam making like apple butter. The apples and spices get really thick and your house smells good for days.
I decided I needed to start to think more about my crock pot so I did some searches for ideas. I came across one for making caramelized onions. Now, I don’t find caramelized onions that hard to make on the stove, but it does take time and you do have to pay attention so things don’t scorch or burn. I had a night when I wanted to make blueberry-rhubarb jam and start a batch of vodka infused with rhubarb. They were tasks that required a lot of chopping and therefore I didn’t want to also be tending to onions.
I decided to give the recipe a try. Before I started my other projects, I chopped up 5 onions and put them in the crock pot. After adding in just a little olive oil and salt, you stir the mess together and cover it and cook on low 10 hours. I put my crock pot in another room and set it for 2 hours so my kitchen counter would be free while I worked on my jam and vodka.
When I was done with the kitchen, I brought the crock pot back in and set it to cook the other 8 hours. When I got up in the morning, it had been on warm for at least a couple of hours. I looked at the onions. They looked well cooked but I do like mine a bit more caramelized so I did as the recipe suggested: crack the lid so steam can escape and keep cooking. I think mine cooked a little over 3 more hours.
The results were fantastic. Deeply brown, sweet onions by the heaps for all sorts of yummy recipes. I put some into some muffin-sized frittatas I made for a party. The majority I put into ice cube trays and froze to use later in other recipes.
My house did smell of onions for a couple of days (not quite the same effect as making apple butter), but it was a nice smell. I would definitely use this technique again since other than chopping, it took almost no effort other than to stir once in a while and to keep an eye on things once the lid was cracked at the end.