Close your eyes and imagine you have this large doughnut and as you take a bite through this sweetness your taste buds hit sweet Vidalia onion! Soft, sweet doughy goodness transitions to the light crunchiness of the sweet onion. I am not a real big onion fan, but an onion ring of that caliber, I would eat every day!
Yep, back to Charleston, South Carolina again for this food memory. Bessinger’s BBQ on Savannah Highway is not only famous for their BBQ pork, but for their onion rings as well. Everyone that lives there has known that since 1946 when they opened.
My older brother took me there for the first time when I was about 10 or 11 years old. I was not an onion fan then either, but my brother assured me I would love their onion rings with my pork sandwich. I did and have ever since.
I introduced my own family to that onion ring on my last visit way back in January 1996. Fourteen years later and I’ve not been back. You can get Bessinger’s sauces by mail order, but not their onion rings. (Even if you could, I doubt they would make it all the way here)!
My previous Saint Bernard hot dog post put me in touch with some folks back home and these onion rings came up during a walk down “Food Memory Lane.” One of them told me she believed the onion rings were made with a cornbread or corn meal flour mixed with buttermilk. Then the dipped rings are chilled in the fridge for about six hours before frying. Well it was enough for me to try it–my first copycat recipe attempt. The family was ecstatic as I commenced the preparations. Get the full recipe for Bessinger’s BBQ Onion Rings Copycat at RecipeLion.com.
I mixed the corn meal flour, sugar, salt and buttermilk and then the batter alone went into the fridge. (No room for racks of pre-dipped onion rings amongst the leftover Chinese and Italian takeout containers in the family fridge). I sliced the onions at about a 1/2 inch thick, while the peanut oil came to temperature.
I dipped the rings in the batter mixture and fried them up, flipping them in the oil as the down side browned. The first few looked pretty good, had my fingers crossed. As I went, they got sloppier and sloppier looking as my temperature on the oil started wobbling. I still had not tasted them though.
My daughter said they looked good, but I could tell she wasn’t sure about trying them. Born in 1997, she has no idea what the real thing tastes like. My biggest fan wasn’t going to make me feel bad.
I finished the batch and put the better looking ones on a plate for the family to try. I had already tasted one so I knew the verdict. “Fail.” “Yes,” my wife confirmed, “fail.” I felt like I had just been voted off a reality cooking show.
Don’t get me wrong, the rings tasted good with a crunchy, sweet taste and a hint of corn meeting that tender sweet onion flavor. Everybody liked them, but the “fail” was for not matching the “doughnut” onion ring texture and flavor of the past. Maybe next time.
Please leave a comment if this sparks a memory for you or if you have a particular food memory you would like to share.
John Kilgallon, Restaurant Recipe Secrets