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Showing posts with label pantry essentials. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pantry essentials. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Condiments and Sauces That Add a Spark to Everyday Meals

some of the condiments that I make: watermelon pickles, blackberry syrup, ketchup, crabapple jelly, 
spicy mustard, mint syrup, yellow mustard, pickle relish, thyme vinegar, chive blossom vinegar

A while back, Ruthie asked if we could discuss condiments and sauces that we keep on hand. So, today, I put together my list of condiments/sauces that I use on a regular basis, including those that I purchase and those that I make from scratch. 

Having a well-stocked kitchen with interesting herbs, spices, sauces, and condiments helps me create tasty meals at home, which in turn saves us a small fortune on eating out. 

Seriously, in my house, I can make scrambled eggs topped with salsa and everyone thinks its the most delicious thing. Or, I can open a packet of ramen, add a drizzle of sesame oil, a boiled egg, a dash of chive blossom vinegar, and spoonful of plum sauce and I get rave reviews from my crew. How about a simple grilled cheese sandwich that is spread on the inside with spicy mustard and served with a few green bean dill pickles on the side? See, you take something utterly simple, add one, two, or three condiments, and the simple is elevated to sublime. 

A condiment is an ingredient that is used to enhance the taste and texture of other foods. Condiments can also be used for food preservation or to stimulate the appetite. Sometimes they're used during cooking. More often, condiments are added just before serving a prepared food. They are typically pungent, spicy, tangy, or otherwise highly flavorful. 

I estimate that I save about $150 per year by making as many of our family's favorite condiments as I can. If it makes sense dollar-wise, I make it myself. Some condiments are made on an annual basis (or alternating with other condiments every two years) and others are made periodically throughout the year. For the once per year condiments, I make a batch large enough to last my family for 2 or 3 years. This way, I don't have to make as much variety each year. 

Here's my list of my homemade condiments and links to some of my recipes:

  • ketchup -- using tomato paste, vinegar, molasses, sugar, onion powder, salt, and water
  • yellow mustard -- I follow a copycat recipe found online
  • spicy mustard --using mustard powder, vinegar, salt, herbs, and water (and sometimes apple cider)
  • pickle relish --  a sweet relish and a dill relish, both using green tomatoes
  • sweet pickles -- watermelon spice pickles, watermelon bread & butter pickle slices, and zucchini bread & butter pickles
  • dill pickles -- using green beans
  • chutney -- using apples, plums, raisins, vinegar, brown sugar, onions, and spices
  • Chinese plum sauce -- I use this to make Chicken with Plum Sauce and as a dipping sauce for egg rolls and wontons
  • herb beverage syrups -- peppermint, spearmint, and basil to add to beverages like lemonade
  • jams, jellies, preserves, and spreads -- a wide variety of sweet spreads, using apples, plums, cherries, figs, berries, and rhubarb from our gardens
  • infused honey -- my two favorite infused honey flavors are lavender and vanilla bean. The flavored honeys are delicious on scones, toast, and in tea.
  • blackberry pancake syrup -- using foraged blackberries and prepared according to these instructions. The syrup can be made with frozen berries as well. So I make several pints a few times per year. 
  • flavored vinegars -- chive blossom, rosemary or thyme, blueberry, blackberry or raspberry 
  • salad dressings -- both creamy and vinaigrette. For creamy dressings, I use a base of homemade yogurt and mayonnaise then stir in herbs, garlic powder, and salt. 
  • tomato salsa -- big batch recipe using canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, jalapenos, vinegar, cilantro and seasonings
  • barbecue sauce -- I make this a few times per year and only make a jar at a time.
  • herb pesto -- basil and sorrel
  • plain yogurt -- we use plain yogurt as one would use sour cream, to garnish a bowl of soup, a tostado, or baked potato

This is my list of the condiments that I feel make the most sense to buy already made:

  • mayonnaise -- commercial mayo keeps far longer than homemade. I buy it in a 1-gallon container at the restaurant supply and decanted it a pint at a time into glass jars, as needed.
  • soy sauce -- making soy sauce at home sounds like a very long and risky process. If making your own soy sauce interests you, here's a link to instructions.
  • plain vinegar -- one of the food-making activities that I remember from reading the Little House books was Laura's description of making apple cider vinegar. It's definitely possible to make vinegar at home, using a mother to start the process. However, this is one ingredient that I'm pretty happy to simply buy. Vinegar is a cheap ingredient and I can add a lot of flavor to plain white vinegar with very little effort.
  • plain honey -- we talk about getting bees. But so far, that's just talk. Beekeeping might just be a very good hobby with benefits, as honey is very expensive in the stores and my orchard would definitely benefit from having pollinators living on site. I'll let you know if I ever feel comfortable enough around bees to keep them as residents.
  • lemon juice -- if I lived someplace that I could grow a lemon tree, I would definitely juice my own lemons and freeze the juice. 
  • lime juice -- ditto on lime juice
  • toasted sesame oil -- you can replicate the flavor of toasted sesame oil by adding toasted sesame seeds to the food that you're preparing. Some folks make a toasted sesame oil substitute by infusing safflower (or other light-tasting oil) with toasted sesame seeds. I may give that one a try soon. Toasted sesame oil is expensive but adds a unique flavor to Asian soups and stir fries.
  • oyster sauce -- oyster sauce is what I've used in homemade beef with broccoli. The flavor of the sauce comes very close to restaurant Chinese beef with broccoli dishes. A small bottle lasts a long time and keeps well in the fridge, for about 6 months or longer.
  • red pepper sauce -- like Tabasco
  • maple syrup -- we do make a fake maple syrup using maple extract, molasses, granulated sugar, salt, and water. But we greatly prefer the real deal when we can get it. I buy it in half-gallon jugs and decant into pint-size bottles.
There are also the condiments that I would like to start keeping. These include:
  • chili sauce -- not the sweet kind that's a little like ketchup, but the hot, spicy kind
  • hoisin sauce
  • kimchi -- I've only had kimchi once, but thought it was quite good and would add some zing to many dishes, not just Korean ones.

There are a couple of hidden benefits to making my own condiments. In addition to saving money, I can control the ingredients and I always have a small supply of last-minute gifts to offer friends. Some bakers twine and raffia tied around the neck of a jar and I've got a pretty little gift.

You can add significant variety to ordinary and otherwise bland foods with the addition of condiments. Sandwiches can be spicy, tangy, or sweet by dolloping or drizzling with mustard, chutney, salsa, jam, vinegar, relish, or pickles. Fried or scrambled eggs are transformed by salsa, chutney, mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce, sesame oil, red pepper sauce, or Chinese plum sauce. Beans and rice take on spicy, sweet, tangy, or earthy tones with the right condiment. The week's menu might repeat many of the same basic foods but taste unique due to the condiments that are added. And keeping all of these unique flavorings needn't be costly. Many of them are easily made at home from scratch ingredients.

What's on your list of must-have condiments and sauces? Do you make any yourself? Link to recipes, if you'd like.

This is a companion piece to  my guide to basic seasonings associated with different cuisines.

You may also be interested in my complete guide to essentials in my baking cabinet.


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