Sharon January 22nd, 2009

As I wrote in my last piece, the key to eating a diet based on staple foods is having some really wonderfully intense flavors to accent and transform an entire meal.  The miracle of condiments is their transformative power, the ability to bring a sandwich together, the ability to make dal and rice into something spectacular. 

And you can make your own - the homemade recipes for our most familiar accents are usually a revelation - wow, ketchup can taste like *that* (actually, despite the utter ubiquity of the Heinz version, ketchups have a long and complex and fascinating history, going back to the original “kecaps” in malay cooking and through some fascinating permutation in American history where mushroom and apple ketchups were common).  And then there are the less familiar ones - the ones that make you wonder how you lived without harissa, say.

Here are a few recipes to get you started - more on this, and on homemade spice blends soon.

Carrot-ginger chutney:

Mushroom ketchup:

A whole bunch of ketchups:

My favorite tomato ketchup:

Making mustard (check out the beer-thyme one!):

Salsa Verde Cruda:,1649,155161-241200,00.html

Really excellent hot sauce recipes:

 Homemade Harissa:

Harissa pickles:

 Ok, this is just the beginning of my condiment fetish posts, but I’ll stop here for tonight!  And please, please post your recipes for sauces, chutneys, salsas, hot sauces, ketchups, marinades…anything that makes things good!


24 Responses to “Condimental”

  1. Sarah says:


    This isn’t exactly a recipe, but if you’re fond of Thai food, lemon balm does a surprisingly good job of imitating kafir lime leaf and dries well.

  2. Sarah says:

    Also, kimchi (or hot peppers and vinegar) + honey + soy sauce to taste = delicious Korean barbecue sauce. It’s an excellent addition to tomato-y spaghetti sauces. Cooking gives the kimchi fumes time to dissipate and it becomes more edible-smelling.

  3. Laney says:

    Do you have a good recipe for ketchup than can be canned?

  4. Annette says:

    Condiment fetish - I love it! =) Thank you for the excellent site. I shall start composing tonite!

  5. Survivalist News » Casaubon’s Book: Condimental says:

    [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Condimental As I wrote in my last piece, the key to eating a diet based on staple foods is having some really wonderfully intense flavors to accent and transform an entire meal. The miracle of condiments is their transformative power, the ability to bring a sandwich together, the ability to make dal and rice into something spectacular. [...]

  6. Jenne says:

    I make my own mustards, and I would say that they are remarkably suitable for the food storage community. I don’t know if you’ll find this information helpful.

    - most homemade mustards are shelf-stable, especially those made with beer, wine, or vinegar. (I consulted the local Cooperative Extension about how to can mustard as gifts and even they told me that homemade mustard is shelf-stable and doesn’t require canning/refrigeration.) However, mustard that is not refrigerated will over time lose liquid and have to be topped up, and will lose the ‘wasabi bite’ faster.

    - for household use, appropriate quantities of mustard seed can be easily ground using a decent mortar and pestle; use of a child or young adult to do the grinding makes this easier but should be approached with caution- many young people, shown how to grind mustard, tend to overproduce in their enthusiasm.
    (Mustard seeds actually don’t need to be soaked before grinding, unless the goal is to remove some of the ‘heat’ of the mustard.)
    - whole mustard seeds (yellow, black or brown) tolerate long-term storage well, and unused mustard seeds can be planted to get both mustard greens (a dark green leafy vegetable) and, with care, a harvest of more mustard seeds.

    - Some studies have shown that mustard can kill E. Coli bacteria in the lab (google on mustard E. Coli).

    - Mustards can be made using pretty much any liquids, sweets (optional), and spice you have around the house; if you prefer your mustard less ‘hot’ be sure to a) add sweet and/or sweet spices like anise and b) age the mustard for some time- even months if necessary. A firey mustard can be made and consumed on the spot; most average eaters favor a mustard that is aged at least 24 hours to 7 days.

  7. jenn says:

    Sharon - my whole blog is all about preserves, condiments and chutneys, I think. :)

    Mustard, beet pickle and carrot pickle are next on my list for kitchen experimentation.

  8. myrtle says:

    My recipe for marinade is simple.I use it for fish, meat and poultry.
    Olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, a dash of balsamic vinegar, a hint of sugar
    and fresh herbs.

  9. Shira says:

    Harif/Harissa variation 1:

    Very similar to the linked recipe, but it involves no water. Best made in late summer when the ingredients are abundant. Stores well up to a year. Caution though, the olive oil can creep out and make a sticky spot.

    small canning jars (4 oz) or any small glass jar that can be sterilized and tightly sealed with a metal lid.
    good quality olive oil
    garlic heads
    fresh hot red chilies, the small thin walled varieties such as cayennes and Thai peppers are best.
    kosher (pickling) salt

    Sterilize jars and lids in boiling water, remove from the water while still very hot and set on a towel to air dry. Peel the garlic, cut the stem ends off the peppers and grind up together with some olive oil in a ratio of one head of garlic to a fat handful of peppers. A mortar and pestle is the traditional grinding implement, but hey, I prefer an electric mini-chopper. Watch for fumes and exercise caution with the chilies. Spread a tiny amount on a cracker to sample.

    Measure the mixture and add a generous 1/4 teaspoon salt per three ounces of mixture and pack into the jars, leaving plenty of head space to float 1/2 inch of olive oil over the harif.

    Harif Variation 2:

    Same ingredients, but chop up some onions with a few small paste or other meaty tomatoes and saute in olive oil with coriander and cumin seed. Combine the cooked onion and tomato mixture with the ground chilies and garlic and proceed as above. The primary purpose of the tomatoes is to mellow out really hot peppers.

    Store jars in cool, dark cupboard where they will not get tipped over. The oil layer and high salt content preserve the harif, but like anything, don’t eat it if it looks or smells off. Once a jar is opened and its protective oil layer disturbed, keep it in the refrigerator.

    Shug Variation3:

    Same, same, made with green hot chilies, garlic, cumin and green coriander seed. This last is abundant as the cilantro goes to seed. Omit tomato.

    Chile first aid: chile juice around eyes: shower. Chile juice between fingers: fresh aloe pulp. The books say to wear gloves, but I find it impossible to cook in gloves.

    Shira in Bellingham, WA

  10. Gen says:

    For all of you mortar and pestle pros, is granite the best material for one? Marble? Ceramic?

    TIA, Gen

  11. Chris says:

    I have been adding sauerkraut and sauerruben (lacto-fermented turnips) to soups of all sorts this winter. They both brighten flavors and add a wonderful crunch.

    Also, I don’t know if this is authentic or not, but I’ve discovered that lacto-fermented beets, sauerruben, and sauerkraut, added to potatoes and caraway boiled in beef broth, makes a fantastic borscht. I top it with yogurt and dill-it’s amazing.

  12. Pangolin says:

    Gen- Asian specialty food markets have large ceramic mortars and pestles ranging from 1/2 pint to 1/2 gallon and up. For daily use I prefer marble to ceramic.

    I have been lately making my own hot sauces in the chipotle style as such things can be fairly expensive once you stray from the ubiquitous (in California) Tapatio sauce. In particular I like to add the flavor of annatto for it’s health benefits.

    In the large mortar grind:

    2 parts Chile powder or dried chilis (I like mulatos or pssilla’s) with stems and seeds removed. If you have access to red-ripe jalepeno’s in the fall smoke them in your barbecue for a special treat.
    1/2 part garlic powder
    1/2 part annatto powder
    1/4 part tamarind paste (Worsterchire Sauce substitutes)
    1/8 part salt

    Grind dry until a uniform paste is produced and then add vinegar and mix to thin paste. Press or pour through a wire colander returning thicker chunks to the mortar. When you get tired of this process place in a quart jar and add a premix of 1/3 cider vinegar to 2/3 water until desired thickness is reached. Use funnel to pour into old olive oil bottle. No refrigeration needed. Alternatively you can dump ingredients into a food processor and hit smash but this is a good recipe for pepper spray also. Open windows and doors FIRST.

  13. Chile says:

    Damn, Sharon, you beat me to a post on this! My food is infinitely better for all the condiments I use to enhance it, many of them homemade preserved food of one kind or another. I’ve noticed lately that I’ve not been using many of my herbs or spices while cooking because I add condiments - already seasoned - to the dishes. A delicious stirfry last week included only cabbage, sweet pickled onions, and the remaining vinegary juice from the onions. No need to add even salt or pepper since the liquid included salt and I smashed and chopped up the couple of peppercorns from it (they soften nicely in liquid). The day before, steamed spinach was flavored only with the leftover thick sweet and spicy liquid from Indian Preserved Lemons. There’s no need for basic simple food to be boring!

  14. Sherril Whitegoat says:

    Speaking of groceries, our local Harris Teeter (in Southeastern US) honors triple coupons!

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