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A Question About Onions and Nutmeg

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hi Gang,

Recently I saw some pics showing the sizes of small, medium, and large cloves of garlic. Very helpful. That raises the question about onions - how big is a small, medium, and large onion, either by dimension or weight?

As for nutmeg, once one of the nuts has been scraped, do you keep it for additional use or will it somehow go bad and need to be tossed? How long will a scraped nut keep before going bad?

Thanks!

Shel
post #2 of 17
A small, medium or large onion is, sadly enough, purely in the eyes (and hands) of the recipe writer. No standardization. It comes down to a matter of personal taste of the cook and/or the consumers. (However, SOME recipes will give weights or volume measurements for onions.)

As for nutmeg, think of it as wood. It's as hard as wood and it's not coincidental that my favorite nutmeg grinding device isn't a grinder (or even the cute nutmeg rasp that I grew up with), but a microplane. After all, microplanes started off life as wood working tools.

As with wood, your nutmegs are not going to go bad, as long as they're kept dry. Simply put your partially ground one in with the rest and store in your cupboard.
post #3 of 17
Although there is no real standardization of onion sizes for the consumer, recipe writers and developers generally agree that a small onion will yield about 1/2 cup when coarsely chopped, a medium will yield 1 cup and a large 1 1/2 cups.
Suzanne-maybe you can confirm or deny this, but this has been the agreement for just about all the editorial outlets that I've been developing for. I haven't noticed that they've edited the recipes significantly once published.

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post #4 of 17
foodnfoto gave you what I believe is the key reference guide for determining what to use where recipes call for a specific size onion. I've never understood why recipe writers can't just use standard measures instead of resorting to obscure references to size.
If you have an interest in onions and are looking for a comprehensive guide to selecting and using those wonderful veggies, this site is (IMHO) fantastic.

http://www.hormel.com/templates/know...mid=114&id=823

I believe you'd pay a good price to purchase a book with this much information about onions.
post #5 of 17
It depends on the client and who the audience is for the recipes.

For example, I do a lot of recipe writing and development for magazines, consumer health and nutrition cookbooks and the like. All of these are marketed to the average American consumer and home cook. Recipes must be accessible with easy, familiar ingredients and measurements. Consumers get irritated and frustrated with recipes that call for multiple cups (or fractions thereof) of chopped or minced vegetables or fruits. Therefore, we use measurements like: 1 medium onion, choppped (about 1 cup). Also, we try to avoid leaving the consumer with a lot of bits of leftover ingredients that will either spoil or be thrown out, since food budgets are of concern to the average consumer.
For the most part, small variations in yield do not significantly affect the success of these types of recipes, so we try to use measures that make the prep and cooking process simple and easy.
This is different if I'm developing recipes for any kind of food service operation where consistency and exacting measurements have a more profound impact on the end product and profitability of the customer (ie the food service operator.) In that case, I would generally use weight as a measurement for most ingredients. The recipes are also written very differently, so that scale-up or scale down can be done with ease.

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post #6 of 17
Problem with onions too is the strength of the onion can vary. A small onion grown in one area can give as much flavor to the dish as a large onion from another.

I like recipes with weights because it gives you an idea of the balance of flavors in the dish too.
post #7 of 17
Frankly, as a home cook, i have never found measurements to be all that important, especially when you're cooking not baking. Even with baking, i find cups perfectly acceptable, and never gave me a problem (and weighing flour and sugar and butter and all is a real pain, since you have to subtract the weight of the container, or use the same one for everything and dirty it up etc. so you have your flour sticking to the butter you just measured)
As far as onions go, i have never had a problem if i used one too many or one too few. The taste varies a little, and so what? It's not like a soup or a stew is a piece of plastic, it's a flexible and complex blend of flavors, and many variations of the taste can be fine. I think of a small onion about the size of an apricot, a medium one like a tangerine and a big one like an apple.
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #8 of 17
and p.s. i HATE recipes that give precise measures for chopped onion, carrot, celery, etc. I find them priggish.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #9 of 17
For me, there can never be too much onion in a dish, especially if the onion is sauted or otherwise cooked first.

Nutmeg can be stored for quite some time, just remember it's the volatile oils that go rancid eventually, years actually. Nutmeg can not rot, but is prone to bugs.
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post #10 of 17
Nutmeg is good for years, if stored in a dark, cool, dry environment. But how would anyone not use an entire nutmeg in that length of time is way beyond me. lol
post #11 of 17
Weighing in, literally. ;) I wish that all homes in the United States had kitchen scales. That is the only way to be accurate. Barring that (it will never happen, just as we will never adopt the metric system like the whole rest of the world :cry: ), what I try to introduce in the cookbooks I work on is some explanation of what the author means by "small" or "medium" etc., and often insert equivalents: 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup). [Hey, FnF, great minds! :D] It's true, as siduri says, for an experienced cook that sort of information is unnecessary. But there are so many people who take written recipes as gospel and have not learned the principles behind cooking; they need that explanation.

I also try to introduce a relationship between the recipe amount and the as-purchased market unit: 1 1/2 cups (3/4 of a 12-ounce bag) chocolate morsels. I just got in trouble with an author, though, who thought that was "information overload" so I had to take it out. :o But I think it's helpful to the reader to know how much to buy, so there won't be leftovers (which many people don't know how to deal with) or not enough in the middle of making the recipe.

So contrary to what castironchef says, a conscientious editor will in fact try to impose industry standards on a cookbook author. One of the reference works that many, many publishers use is The New Food Lover's Companion, 3rd edition, which has tables of equivalents. That Hormel site is also excellent.

Back to the specific questions: there are 4 medium onions to a pound, and 1 medium clove of garlic yields 1/2 teaspoon minced (aka chopped fine). Remember, though, that different types of onions have different strengths, too: yellow onions are stronger than white, Spanish are somewhere in between, red onions are relatively mild but can be somewhat strong (though not as strong as yellow).

Nutmeg: they keep, as already mentioned. But I find that I love freshly grated nutmeg so much I add it to all sorts of dishes, and don't have to worry about it keeping. :lips:
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post #12 of 17
I would agree with you, that is if the manufactures didn't keep changing package sizes to hide price increases. Back in the day a standard can of tomatoes was 15oz, now they are 14oz. Evaporated milk has done the same thing. I am 100% with you on weights being the way to go, but market unit is not all that helpful in my opinion.
post #13 of 17
habman -- Good point about package sizes changing. Haven't thought about that enough. I figure that the cookbooks I work on aren't going to be used for eons, so if a package changes a little, there's still another accurate measure to fall back on.

I've got old cookbooks that call for things like a #303 can of tomatoes. :confused: And coffee cans used to hold a pound, now we're lucky if they hold 10 ounces; makes for a big difference if you want to use the can to bake in. :(
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #14 of 17
Suzanne, I spent a lot of time with my mom in the kitchen when I was a kid. She used to send met to the pantry cupboard to find a #2 can of whatever. She still refers to can sizes like that when I call her to ask about recipes from my childhood! I recently found this site to make sense of it all: http://lancaster.unl.edu/food/ciq-can-sizes.htm.
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post #15 of 17
Mezzaluna,

Thanks for the Lancaster site, I've been trying to put something like that together myself.
post #16 of 17
Thread Starter 
Fantastic! Thanks so much for posting the link.

Shel
post #17 of 17
All this discussion about onions brins a tear to my eye :lol: I've found that when cooking directions don't give an exact measurement for an item, it means that the recipe is forgiving - - a little more/less isn't going to make a whole lot of difference. In my windmills of my mind, a large onion is the size of a baseball, a small onion is about the size of a golf ball, and a medium size onion is about the size of a tennis ball. However, like was mentioned in an earlier reply, type of onion and region in which it was grown are both going to make a difference in the taste strength. Just go for it, your recipe will turn out fine and adjust more or less to taste the next time you make it.
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