The Cook's Palette of Savory Condiments
Now everything in your summer picnic basket can be ultrafresh and truly made from scratch
WOBURN, MASS. — THEY'RE the tops. They add the pizazz to hot dogs, the zip to hamburgers, and that creamy mellowness to homemade potato salads. They're the big three of summer condiments: tomato ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise.
Unfortunately, you may only be familiar with the threesome in their store-bought, mass-produced, manufactured form - glass jars and plastic squeeze bottles.
It's a pity. All three are a snap to make, and are infinitely better when homemade. The reasons are simple and obvious. You can use fresh ingredients, they are free of stabilizers and preservatives, and best of all they can be custom-made to flavor-fit whatever foods they will enhance.
Let's start with ketchup. Or is it catsup? or catchup? No matter how you spell it, it's enough to make a French chef see red. But that's the bottled Big Red. Thick, rich, and somewhat spicy, this homemade ketchup would do any chef proud.
I discovered this recipe in an old family cookbook. It called for 12 pounds of vine-ripened tomatoes and was supposed to yield eight pints. I halved the recipe - using six pounds of store-bought tomatoes as my home grown were not ready to harvest - but only got two cups of wonderful spicy ketchup. It may have been that the tomatoes were not of the best quality or meaty enough.
If you have an abundance of your own home-grown tomatoes you may double the recipe. Ketchup should be refrigerated and used in a few weeks, or put up in hot sterilized jars.
6 lbs. vine-ripened tomatoes
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon mustard seed
6 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1-inch piece cinnamon stick, broken
Core and chop tomatoes. Place in large nonaluminum pot. Add shallots (or onions) and garlic. Bring to light boil and cook until tomatoes are soft and mushy - about 45 minutes.
Press mixture through a sieve to remove seeds and skins. Return puree to pot. Add sugar, vinegar, peppers, and salt.
Tie celery seeds, mustard seeds, cloves, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick in cheesecloth bag and add to pot. Continue cooking, uncovered, until desired consistency is reached. (This may take several hours.) Discard spice bag.
Seal in hot sterilized jars.
I haven't bought mayonnaise in more than 15 years - ever since I got my first food processor. With a food processor (or blender) the job is done in less than a minute. You can also experiment by adding herbs and spices.
If you are making a fish salad, for instance, you can prepare a basic mayonnaise and add a complementary fresh herb at the end such as a few sprigs of fresh dill. A few snips of tarragon or a handful of chopped chives or parsley give a bit of oomph to chicken salad.
I remember as a child slowly drizzling in the vegetable oil while my mother patiently whisked the egg and vinegar. It seemed an endless task, but Mother insisted on making her own mayonnaise. BASIC, SIMPLE HOMEMADE MAYONNAISE
1 large egg at room temperature
2 teaspoons wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dry or prepared Dijon mustard
1 cup corn oil or vegetable oil
freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Place raw egg, vinegar or lemon juice, and mustard into food processor. Process while slowly adding oil in a thin steady stream. Once mixture has emulsified, add pepper and salt. Process a few more seconds; taste and adjust seasonings. If mayonnaise is thicker than you wish, add water a tablespoon at a time, processing between each addition until it has the consistency you want.
At this point you may add any additional flavorings such as 2 teaspoons Roquefort cheese; a few sprigs of tarragon or chervil; 1/2 cup parsley leaves; a few pitted black olives; 1 tablespoon anchovy paste; 1/4 cup pesto; etc. Process a few more seconds, taste, and add additional herbs or seasonings as you wish.
Makes about 1 cup.
Commercial mustards are the designer flavor of this condiment troika. In recent years a harvest of sweet and tangy mustards has showered the market: stone-ground, whole-grain, honey, and tarragon mustards from Italy, France, California, and Vermont. Everyone, it seems, is coming out with their own gourmet mustards. You can too. The only problem - if it's a problem at all - is that mustard seeds must be soaked for about 48 hours before they are soft enough to process.
The following recipe is from ``The Mustard Book'' by Jan Roberts-Dominguez (Macmillan 1993).
HONEY MUSTARD OF LIME AND CELERY SEEDS WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR
1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons celery seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon finely grated lime rind
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
In a nonaluminum pot or jar, combine the mustard seeds, vinegar, water, and celery and coriander seeds; cover and soak for 48 hours, adding additional vinegar if necessary to maintain enough liquid to cover the seeds.
Scrape the soaked seeds into a food processor.
Add the remaining ingredients and process until the mustard turns from liquid and seeds to a creamy mixture flecked with seeds. This takes 3 to 4 minutes. Add additional vinegar, or a tablespoon or two of water, as necessary to create a nice creamy mustard. Keep in mind that it will thicken slightly upon standing. This mustard can be used immediately.
Makes about 1-1/2 cups.