Sweet and tangy Caramelized Onion and Pear Jam with brown sugar, whole grain Dijon, white balsamic vinegar, and thyme is a lovely accompaniment to fall and winter cheese boards.
There’s something about having a pot of jam simmering on the stove this time of year that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The flavors and aromas are so comforting when you walk into the kitchen and set such a picturesque mood for the holiday season. Peach jams are my favorite in the summer months, but as we head into fall and winter, pears set my heart aflutter. Over the past few years, I’ve become so partial to recipes that marry sweet and savory flavors (such as bacon or onion jams), so it seemed a natural fit to pair my favorite winter fruit with a savory component. Caramelized Onion and Pear Jam is at once sweet and tangy, comforting and elegant. It pairs well with a variety of cheeses, making it perfect for holiday entertaining, or for indulging yourself on a cold winter evening. Spread slices of baguette with creamy whipped goat cheese and a dollop of this jam, and I’m in heaven.
I adapted this recipe from techniques in two of my previous recipes: Major Grey’s Mango Chutney and Bacon-Peach Jam. For this jam, I opted to use light brown sugar instead of dark so the flavor wouldn’t overpower the delicate pears and caramelized onions, with white balsamic vinegar for a sweet-tart acidity, whole grain Dijon, and fresh thyme leaves. I found that caramelizing the pears with the onions before simmering brought out the flavors of each component beautifully, resulting in a jam with well-developed layers.
I’ve tested this jam with a few different pear varieties and have had the best success with Bartletts. They’re sweet, fragrant, and juicy, yet still hold their shape when cooked. While my friends and I like the jam to have a bit of texture, we found the Bosc batch to be just a bit too crisp and required more liquid to achieve a glossy, jammy consistency. While freshly-sliced Comice pears are one of my favorite additions to a holiday cheese board, their creamy texture cooked down too much for our preferences to make the jam more sauce-like. This Visual Guide to Pears from Epicurious is a good resource for navigating the pear selection at the market and determining each variety’s best uses.
A jar of Caramelized Onion and Pear Jam would make a beautiful hostess gift, or as a part of a gift basket with wine and cheese. I haven’t forayed extensively into the world of canning (though, it’s one of my goals for the coming year), so as with my other recipes, I store this jam in the refrigerator in airtight containers for up to a few weeks or freeze. The shelf-life certainly isn’t as long as a canned jam, but this recipe never lasts long in our house as it is!
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Caramelized Onion and Pear Jam
- 4 large onions, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 2 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2-1/2 pounds pounds ripe Bartlett pears (about 5), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt butter and oil over medium-high heat until foaming subsides. Add onions and salt and cook until onions begin to soften and release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Lower heat and cook, stirring often, until onions are soft and just beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Add diced pears and continue cooking, stirring often, until mixture is golden, about 40 minutes.
Stir in brown sugar, mustard, vinegar, water, thyme, and pepper. Bring to a bubble, lower heat, and simmer until pears are soft and jam is thick and glossy, about 15-20 minutes. If desired, use a potato masher to break up fruit to reach your preferred consistency (I like to leave my jam chunky). Jam is best served slightly warm or at room temperature.