Sometimes I'm amazed at how much I still have to learn about vegetables and gardening. Take these Ailsa Craig onions, for example. I'd never heard of them until we started getting them in our CSA share a few weeks ago. They're almost the size of softballs—and at least as heavy!

I now know that Ailsa Craigs are the north's answer to Georgia's Vidalia onions and to Washington's Walla Walla onions. This large, sweet heirloom was introduced in 1877 and is named for a small island off the west coast of Scotland. It's adapted for 38–60 degrees latitude, which is basically the northern half of the U.S. and into Canada. From what I've read, two-pound Ailsa Craigs are easily the norm, and even five-pounders are not uncommon. From personal experience, I can also tell you they're delicious—even raw or barely cooked. And more good news: they keep well in the fridge for at least three weeks.

As soon as I saw these beauties, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. I pulled out my recipe for Walla Walla Onion Pie, written down for me by my dear friend Genie, who grew up in Seattle. The caraway seeds is this delectable quiche are an unusual and distinctive addition. I don't want to tell you what to do, but my advice is not to leave them out. Genie mixes the caraway seeds in with the flour when she makes her crust. I've done that too, but you can also mix them in when you sauté your onions. The caraway taste in this pie is fairly subtle, so you might try using 1 1/2 tablespoons and dividing them between the crust and the onions.

You can make this recipe with any sweet onion, of course. Since we live in Maine and not Seattle, however, I can't in good conscious call this Walla Walla Onion Pie. So here it is, Ailsa Craig Onion Pie. Thanks, Genie!


Like most quiches, this savory treat is good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner—and maybe even better as a cold leftover. I like to let any quiche cool for at least 10 minutes after I take it out of the oven. It brings out the flavor better.

1 pie crust (bottom only, and preferably homemade—which is so much better than store-bought)
2 tablespoons butter
4 cups thinly sliced onions
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
a few slices of cooked bacon, crumbled up (optional)

Line a standard-size pie plate with the crust and set aside.

In a large skillet or shallow kettle, melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the onions and caraway seeds until the onions are nice and soft. Let this mixture cool slightly and then spread it on top of the pie crust.

Combine the flour, salt, paprika, cheese, eggs, and milk. Mix well and then pour this over the onions. Another pinch of caraway seeds makes a nice topping. If you're into bacon, you can also sprinkle some of this on top—as Genie wrote on the recipe card she gave me, "Yum!"

Bake at 400 degrees F. for 30–40 minutes, or until the eggs are set and the top is nicely browned. Let the pie cool for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving it.


Anonymous said...

Liz, what % milk would you recommend?

Liz said...

I used 1 1/2 % milk, and it worked fine.

matt said...


Liz said...

Hmmm, good question, Matt. I'm in Maine and don't know the answer, but I would guess that you can find Ailsa Craigs -- or maybe another variety of sweet onion -- at your farmers market. Ask around among the farmers. I'm sure they would be happy to talk with you about it! ~Liz

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