Saturday, May 14, 2011

Those Sweet Onions from Vidalia

If you haven't noticed already, those sweet onions from Vidalia, Georgia, are now in season and at our local grocery stores.  Go ahead and put a bag in your cart - they are so yummy, you will eat them in no time!

Known as the world's sweetest onion, the secret to vidalia onions is in the soil where the onions grow.  The low amount of sulfur in the soil of just 20 Georgia counties, along with mild winters and regular rain, give the onions that delicious sweet flavor.  By protection of The Vidalia Onion Act of 1986, only designated areas in Georgia can grow the certified sweet onions.  Although the official act was passed as recently as 1986, the special onions have been grown in Georgia since the 1930s.  In 1931, Farmer Mose Coleman discovered the onions he grew in Toombs County, Georgia, near the town of Vidalia, were SWEET, not hot, like onions usually were.  And so, those sweet onions from Vidalia soon grew famous.   

Ben and I love vidalia onions - they are great in all types of recipes.  Fried, grilled, in casseroles, with other foods, or even raw, the sweet onions are a favorite.  Much to my surprise was when both Benjamin and Georgia-Lee enjoyed eating them raw with vinegar, salt, and pepper!  Earlier this week, they took the bowl of onions and vinegar Ben and I were eating, grabbed the salt shaker, and headed to the porch.  Quickly, they finished off our bowl of onions!  Apparently, kids will eat onions and love them!  (I will add that Georgia-Lee later moaned and groaned that her stomach hurt.  And no wonder, she had eaten nearly an entire onion with vinegar and probably lots of salt by herself!)

Apparently, vidalia onions have been a family favorite for years!  My Great-Aunt Maud Findlater Dudley (b. 1913, d. 1993) was known for her Vidalia Onion Casserole.  She probably took it to the large Dudley family gatherings held annually on Independence Day or Labor Day.  Aunt Maud was married to my Great-Uncle Menza M. Dudley (b. 1911, d. 1980), who was brother to my grandaddy Benjamin Clay Dudley (b. 1907, d. 1983).  

Aunt Maud's Vidalian Onion Casserole

14-16 saltine crackers, crushed                              
1 qt. vidalia onions, chopped
3/4 stick butter
4 eggs, well beaten
1/2 c. milk
1 cup grated sharp cheddar, not low-fat
salt and pepper to taste

Place crackers in the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish.  Saute onions with butter until tender.  (Amount of butter can be adjusted down according to preference.)  Pour onions on top of crackers.  Beat 4 eggs; stir in milk.  Pour over onions.  Sprinkle cheese over casserole.  Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.  The dish is unusually good! 


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