Homemade Condiments: Just Like Grandma Made

by Heather Clisby, Shoestring Magazine
October 16, 2009 - 12:52pm
Homemade condiments DIY condiments

Yes, it's a DIY world we've inherited. All across America, people are darning socks, giving up gym memberships, and learning how to can and preserve. I even spotted a push mower in action the other day. At long last, we are doing for ourselves and giving a suspicious eye to so-called convenience.

I pondered this while reaching for some mayo the other day. Couldn't I make this myself? Turns out, I can.

Although mayonnaise was invented in 1756 (in France, no less), it didn't hit the mass market, as "Hellman's Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise," until 1912. Still, it was just two generations ago when my Grandma Myrtle regularly made her own. "I'm pretty sure she cooked it," my mother recalls. "It was bright yellow and we kept it on the cellar stairs."

I asked Mom if she'd ever considered making her own mayo when she married in 1958. She looked at me like I was crazy. Her unspoken words hung in the air: "Why make it if you can buy it?"

For starters, it's an entertaining exercise in understanding our food. There is a growing awareness among consumers, something called 'Mindful Eating.' In a world of peanut butter recalls and tainted spinach, it's about learning where your food comes from, what goes into it, and why. For decades now, America has been eating blindly and look where it's gotten us: Fat City and Diabetes Suburbs.

Much of the processed food we buy is loaded with chemicals, preservatives, and the dreaded high fructose corn syrup. This is why the recipes below have a much shorter shelf life than store-bought foods. It's also why these homemade concoctions are more nutritional and, in most cases, better tasting.

I learned this during one very depressing summer when, in an effort to cheer myself up, I bought a pink Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. (Best. Purchase. Ever.) Once you have eaten your own homemade ice cream and frozen yogurt, made with just four or five simple ingredients, you instantly become a frozen dessert snob, as I have. Store-bought ice cream now tastes like plastic to me and Dairy Queen? Good for patching holes in igloo walls, that's about it.

The cost savings of making your own condiments and sauces depends on the recipe. Homemade mustard is actually a lot more expensive to make than to buy, but the taste is far superior. I finished up a batch this morning and, although it hurt initially to buy that $7.69 tin of Colman's Mustard Powder, the bite and flavor are unbelievable.

Of course, making gourmet versions are certainly cheaper when done by hand. Chipotle mayo? Red pepper hummus? Chocolate chip peanut butter? It's whatever you can dream up just without all the expensive packaging.

Homemade anything also makes a superb present. You are, after all, giving the gift of time and effort and who wouldn't be impressed? Slap a bow on that jar of homemade mustard and you've just cemented your Martha Stewart reputation with Aunt Rose...as long as she can handle the bite.

DIY CONDIMENT RECIPES

Especially for our folks in Europe, please note that prices can vary greatly according to region, and also that, while sometimes making your own condiments can save you money, it's really all about better quality fixings and knowing what is actually in your food.

Equipment needed:

  • Bowls
  • Whip
  • Fine-mesh cheesecloth
  • Large sieve
  • Food processor or blender
  • Double boiler or microwave
  • Tupperware or Mason jars

MAYO

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons mustard
  • Dash salt and pepper
  • Squirt of lemon juice
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups olive oil

Add it all together and whisk until you get the desired consistency. I made this with 2 tablespoons mustard, although I would recommend starting with one and doing a taste-test.

DIY yield & cost:
Makes approximately 16 oz., average cost between $2.05 and $2.59

Store-bought comparison:
Kroger Mayo, 32 oz., $2.07; 11.25 oz., $1.39.

MUSTARD

  • 1/2 cup Colman's dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar

Mix together and let set overnight. Next day, beat:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • Pinch of salt to taste

Combine everything and cook in top of double boiler until thick. (Can also be done in the microwave.) Let cool.

DIY yield & cost:
Makes approximately 16 oz., average cost $3.27

Store-bought comparison:
Kroger, 10.5 oz., $0.99; Organic mustard, 9 oz., $1.99.

KETCHUP

  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • Dash of salt

Blend well. Add more tomato sauce or salt, if needed to balance taste.

DIY yield & cost:
Makes approximately 8 oz., average cost $0.87

Store-bought comparison:
Kroger, 32 oz., $1.99; Heinz Organic Ketchup, 15 oz., $2.39.

PEANUT BUTTER
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put everything in a blender and whip it up. If you want chunky peanut butter, remove 1/4 cup peanuts before blending the peanuts and oil. When the mixture is almost blended, add the nuts. Puree it a few more times, to break up the nuts and finish the blending. Optional additions: honey, macadamia nuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips. If the oil starts to separate and rise to the top, just turn the jar upside down or mix it up with a knife.

DIY yield & cost:
Makes approximately 8 oz., average cost $1.74

Store-bought comparison:
Kroger Natural Crunchy, 16 oz., $2.39.

HUMMUS

  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 strips lemon zest, 2 1/2 inches (bitter white pith removed)
  • 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 15.5 oz. cans chickpeas (garbanzos), drained, rinsed and drained again
  • 1/4 cup tahini paste
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cups water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Chop the parsley in food processor, set aside. Pulse lemon zest and salt. Keep machine running and add garlic. Add chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, water and cumin. Pulse to chop, then process 1 minute. Scrape the bowl and process again. With machine running, pour olive oil in slowly. Process 3 minutes. Add half the parsley and pulse to incorporate. Let the hummus sit for 30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and drizzle with olive oil, if desired.

DIY yield & cost:
Makes approximately 22 oz., average cost $4.74

Store-bought comparison:
Athenos, 7 oz., $3.49.

RICOTTA CHEESE
2 quarts whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Line a large sieve with a layer of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl. Slowly bring milk, cream, and salt to a rolling boil in a 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes. Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let it drain 1 hour. After discarding the liquid, chill the ricotta, covered; it will keep in the refrigerator 2 days. 

DIY yield & cost:
Makes approximately 13 oz., average cost $5.73

Store-bought comparison:
Kroger, 15 oz., $2.29.

SUPER EASY EXTRAS

EVERYTHING SAUCE

  • Buncha mayo
  • Squirts of lemon juice
  • Dill

Mix well. Serve with salmon or other fish. Also makes a great salad dressing and dip for sweet potato fries.

NOT-SO-SECRET SAUCE

  • Mayo
  • Relish
  • Ketchup

Mix well. Serve on burgers or whatever.

FRUIT DIP

  • Sour cream
  • Sugar

Mix until you've reached desired taste.

Shop at Home. We Deliver. Vons.com

Story & Photo: Copyright 2009, Shoestring, LLC.

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