What does to caramelize mean?
To caramelize means to convert sugar to caramel. You may remember making caramel from immersing cans of sweetened condensed milk in a water bath and slowly cooking for hours. When you took the cans out of the water bath and opened them, the contents had been transformed into a rich light-brown caramel.
The natural (and the added) sugar in the milk was converted to caramel through heat. The natural sugar in vegetables can also be converted to a form of caramel.
This is an excellent vegan recipe featuring caramelize shallots as adapted from the original published in the Vegetarian Times Magazine.
2 tablespoons olive oil
16 ounces large shallots (peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick)
1 small bay leaf
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (chopped)
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
½ cup extra-dry vermouth
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, bay leaf, and salt. Sauté 20 minutes, or until shallots are deep brown, stirring often.
Mix in thyme and stir for 30 seconds. Add flour and whisk in for 2 minutes or until flour is completely absorbed and beginning to color. Add vegetable broth, Better Than Bouillon and vermouth. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Stir in brown sugar and mustard. Simmer 5 minutes stirring often. Add vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.