condiments

There are just about as many different types of condiments as there are different types of food, with various cultures having versions that are unique or particularly important to the people of that culture. Common examples of condiments include ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salad dressing, soy sauce, barbecue sauce and relish. Often added to a food to introduce new flavors or enhance existing ones, a condiment is seldom served or eaten by itself and does not typically contribute much nutritional value.

Many condiments are culturally connected to different types of foods. French fries are often eaten in America with ketchup, while in Belgium they are often served with mayonnaise and, in the United Kingdom, they are commonly sprinkled with vinegar. Similarly, certain types of foods are often served with specific condiments, such as soy sauce being commonly served with Asian dishes and grated cheese, such as Parmesan, being a staple condiment of Italian cuisine.

Condiments and spreads add that little kick to many dishes and, whether you’re eating hummus as a dip for vegetables or blue cheese sauce on chicken wings, these additions have become essential accompaniments. Sometimes, though, those little additions aren’t doing you any favors. Most of them aren’t very good for you. Most condiments, like ketchup, have a ton of added sugar and very little nutritional value. Even bottled salad dressing usually has a lot of fat and sugar in it!

Not all condiments are dangerous (especially when they’re made at home), but added ingredients can cause problems. While ’50 percent less sodium’ or ‘less fat’ seems appealing, these labels can get confusing. It’s important to understand how to read labels and not just compare them with other products. Light salad dressings, for example, can get tricky, according to Women’s Health Magazine, since most people assume ‘light’ refers to healthier, they often end up using more. Some lowfat condiments add extra sugar or salt to make up for fat and taste.

Sometimes, condiments may be the reason your meals are unhealthy. As far as nutrition goes, most of us already know that adding a few dabs of ketchup on your burger won’t kill you. Getting rid of condiments and sauces altogether isn’t the answer either, instead, look for healthier options and make homemade recipes as alternatives. Try the recipes below for some healthy homemade versions of your favorite condiments.

Homemade Ketchup

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Makes about 3 ½ cups

Ingredients

  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 28 ounce can of Italian plum tomatoes with juices
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar

Directions

Place the olive oil in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, stir and cook for 3 minutes. Add the spices, stir and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, paste and water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer until reduced by half. This will take about 20 minutes.

Add the brown sugar and vinegar. Stir and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then run through a food processor until very smooth.

Return to the saucepan. Season to taste with salt. Gently reheat over low heat for 8 minutes.

Pour into a sterilized jar and place in the refrigerator until needed. Use extra ketchup to make some of the sauces below.

Seafood Cocktail Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup homemade ketchup (recipe above)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (or more if you want it hotter)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, recipe below 
  • Large pinch of Kosher salt

Directions

Mix all ingredients together. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, hot sauce or horseradish to taste.

Chill until ready to use – for best results allow sauce to chill at least 1 hour before serving.

Peach Barbecue Sauce

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About 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 cups homemade ketchup (recipe above)
  • 1 cup peach purée (recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cubed and well chilled

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the butter. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

(You may want to have a lid handy to protect yourself and your kitchen from any sputtering.)

Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated.

This sauce freezes well.

Peach Puree

Makes 1 cup, enough for the recipe above.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup peeled and chopped fresh peaches or 1 cup frozen
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

Process peaches, sugar and water in a blender 1 minute or until smooth.

Herbed Honey Mustard

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds 
  • 3 tablespoons dry yellow mustard
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup tarragon vinegar (or any herb vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme 

Directions

Put the seeds, dry mustard, and water in a bowl. Let this mixture stand 2 hours or until the seeds become soft. Stir the mixture every 15 minutes.

When the seeds are soft, put the mixture in the food processor and run until the mixture is smooth. This takes about 5 minutes.

Add the vinegar, honey, salt and herbs. Place in a lidded jar and allow to stand at room temperature to mellow (about 1 1/2 hours).

Store the jar in the refrigerator. It will keep for several months.

Olive Oil Mayonnaise

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Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 cup light olive oil (Not extra virgin.)

Directions

Place the egg and lemon juice in a blender or food processor bowl. Let them come to room temperature together, about 30-60 minutes.

Add the dry mustard, salt and 1/4 cup of the oil. Blend until well mixed – about 20 to 30 seconds.

Incorporate the remaining 1 cup oil into the mixture. To do this, you must pour very slowly… the skinniest drizzle you can manage and still have movement in the oil. This takes about three minutes.

If you’re using a blender, you’ll hear the pitch change as the liquid starts to form the emulsion. Eventually, the substance inside the blender will start to look like regular mayonnaise.

Store in the refrigerator.

Homemade Tartar Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup homemade olive oil mayonnaise (recipe above)
  • 1/4 cup pickle relish, see recipe below
  • 1/2 teaspoon capers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce or more to taste (recipe below)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Chill

Makes about ¾ cup of tartar sauce.

Sweet Pickle Relish

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Great sandwich spread.

Makes 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Pinch crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 medium or 4 small cucumbers (about 1 1/2 pounds total), peeled, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion

Directions

Combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, turmeric, chili flakes and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.

Add cucumbers, bell pepper and onion. Return to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Transfer to jars and refrigerate at least 2 hours to let the flavors blend. This mixture will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

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Use these pickles to top your burger.

Ingredients

Makes 3 cups

  • 3 cups thinly sliced cucumbers
  • 1 cups thinly sliced sweet onions
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

Place cucumbers and onions in a large bowl; set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook and stir just until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over cucumber mixture in the bowl; cool.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. You can, then, transfer the mixture to jars with tight fitting lids and store them in the refrigerator.

Homemade Hot Sauce

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Makes 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces red jalapenos, stems removed but not the seeds and sliced
  • 7 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey

Directions

Wear gloves to clean the peppers and don’t touch your eyes.

In a large jar, combine the sliced chiles (and seeds), garlic, kosher salt and cider vinegar. Screw the lid on and give it a few little shakes to mix. Leave the mixture on the counter overnight.

The next day, pour the contents of the jar into a medium saucepan and add the honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, stir a few times, then lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the stove and let the mixture cool to room temperature.

When cool, pour the mixture into a blender and puree until very smooth (this will take a few minutes). Stop and scrape the sides down a couple of times.

Pour into a jar and store it into the refrigerator for up to one month.

Blue Cheese “Hot Wing” Dip

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Makes about 1/1/2 cups

  • 4 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened and cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons homemade olive oil mayonnaise (recipe above)
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 small garlic clove (or half a large), minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (recipe above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 2 oz good quality crumbled blue cheese

Directions

Pulse the first the 10 ingredients in a food processor 4 times or just until blended. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl and gently stir in blue cheese.

Cover and chill 1 to 2 hours before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

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