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Condiments

Condiments for Compliments

by John Raven, Ph.B.

Condiment Recipes

We all know what condiments are. They are things put on the dining table that are added to your food to improve or mask the taste. The big three of condiments are ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard. You can bet the ranch that you or someone you know will be using one or more of the big three today.

Ketchup or "catchup" or catsup is mostly tomatoes reduced to pulp with flavorings added. Ketchup seems to have started life as a fish sauce that didn't contain any tomatoes. In the early 19th century tomatoes became popular and soon were the main ingredient of ketchup.



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Our modern catsup is composed mainly of tomato concentrate. The concentrate is the ripe tomato with the skin, seeds and most of the water removed. Nearly anything red in a bottle starts with tomato concentrate. If you want to try some in its native form, get some tomato paste.

Added to the concentrate are vinegar, milk and various sugars. The flavorings favored are salt, garlic, allspice, cloves, cinnamon and onion. The little pouches of ketchup you get at the fast food place marked "Fancy" have a little extra cinnamon. I like it.

I have seen Jalapeño Ketchup on the market, and I'm sure you can find other flavors. I suspect that somewhere lurks Chipotle- Ranch ketchup. It seems everything nowadays is Chipotle-Ranch. [Author’s note: If you are making a recipe that calls for chipotle and you are out of it, a short cigar butt will substitute nicely in flavor and texture.]

Ketchup goes well with just about everything but desserts. However, I'm sure a few will raise their hands when asked if they put ketchup on pie or ice cream.

Mayonnaise showed up on the table a couple of hundred years ago in Europe. No one knows for sure exactly when or where. More than likely it was developed in several regions about the same time. Mayonnaise is an emulsion of egg yolk and vegetable oil flavored with mustard, lemon juice or vinegar and salt. The egg and oil are whipped together to form a stable mix, the egg provides the water and other things to form the emulsion.

Before the invention of the blender and the food processor, making mayonnaise at home was pretty much a chore. It could be made with a whisk or a hand-cranked eggbeater.

To make homemade mayonnaise, start with the freshest eggs you can find. When commercial mayonnaise appeared at the trading post, its popularity soared. Today you can find mayonnaise on or in about any food product. The old myth that any food containing mayonnaise will turn to deadly poison when exposed to the outside atmosphere is not true. Commercial mayonnaise contains enough acid to kill the food poisoning bacteria. However, other bacteria and mold can spoil the mayonnaise, but it won't make you sick.

Homemade mayonnaise is a different story. You need to be careful with it. You want the freshest eggs you can find. Homemade mayonnaise should always be kept under refrigeration and never for more than about three days.

Rounding out our list of the Big Three condiments is mustard. The mustard formula is rather simple. It is the ground seed of the mustard plant mixed with a liquid. The Romans seem to have made it first using a mix of ground seeds and unfermented grape juice known as "must". From there, mustard was born.

We Americans prefer the yellow mustard. This is a very mild form of mustard that uses turmeric for coloring to get that bright yellow color. Other popular mustards are Dijon, which contains wine, and honey mustard, which of course is mixed with honey.

Mustard contains heat much like our chili peppers. Our yellow mustard contains very little of the heat. You nearly have to go to Europe to get real hot mustard. Heat calms the heat in mustard. When you cook something with mustard in it, the heat almost completely disappears. Hot mustard uses cold liquids in its processing.

There are a lot of different styles of mustard on the shelves. You just have to shop around and see which you and your family prefer.

The best use of the Big Three condiments that I have encountered was at the old 2-J Hamburger Stand on North Lamar in Austin. The 2-J is but a memory now but they had a secret sauce for their burgers that was made from ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard. The proportions are unknown. It made the best hamburgers ever.

Condiment Recipes

DIY (Do-it-yourself) Ketchup

If you find yourself with some time on your hands and want to make your friends and neighbors go "Ahhhhh" by serving homemade condiments, here’s how you start.

Making ketchup from fresh tomatoes is very labor intensive. From experience I know it takes all day to make a batch. It takes a lot of tomatoes to make a bottle of ketchup. For about eight pints of homemade ketchup you will have to start with 25 pounds of tomatoes. They will need to be peeled, deseeded, chopped and cooked for a long time. Then, after you've made your ketchup, the jars will need to be boiled in a water bath for safety.

Here is a cheater recipe that will work a lot better.

  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in puree
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
After your first batch you can decide what additional flavors you would like to include in your signature recipe.

Sauté the onion in the olive oil until it is tender. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer in a deep pot, simmer until very thick, an hour or so. Stir as it thickens to keep it from scorching. When it is done, run it a batch at a time through your blender and bottle it. Keep refrigerated.

Homemade Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is a lot easier to make. You will need:
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (get a good quality that has no "off" taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
Put the mustard, egg and vinegar or lemon juice in the blender. Blend it at the slowest speed for about one minute. Add the oil at just a trickle. You can put it in too fast, but you can't put it in too slow. If the planets are in alignment, you will end up with serviceable mayonnaise. Again, you can add other flavorings or vary the kind of vinegar you use.

Use on your own homemade cole slaw.

Homemade Mustard

Mustard making is a simple, complicated process. Basically it is a mix of mustard seeds and a liquid. You have your choice of brown/black or yellow/white seeds. When the seeds are ground they are called mustard flour. It is also known as dry mustard. Mustard is a mix of equal parts mustard flour and liquid.

You can grind your own mustard seeds in the blender, but first you have to soak them overnight in the liquid. You do not cook mustard. Cooking kills the heat.

I don't have an exact recipe. It is sort of a by-guess-and-by-golly proposition. I would start with a 2-ounce tin of dry mustard. Add an equal amount of water and go from there.

Good luck with getting compliments on your condiments. If you invent something strange and wonderful, let me hear about it.

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