Top 5 Condiments You Should Make at Home

Categories: How To, Top Five

Salad Dressing.JPG
Photo by Nicholas L. Hall
Why would you ever pay Kraft to do this for you?
My wife is a recovering ketchup junkie. When we first got married, she would break my heart every night around 6 p.m. As soon as dinner hit the table, it was doused in ketchup. Wild mushroom risotto? Ketchup. Red beans and rice? Ketchup. Meatloaf with a ketchup glaze? Actually, she ate that with applesauce. Weird.

She's gotten better about it over the years, although it's arguable that Sriracha has ousted ketchup from its throne. One thing we've always been able to agree on, ketchup-wise, is the futility of the "house-made" or, God forbid, "artisan" stuff. For better or for worse, there really is no improving on ketchup. Heinz has that one tied down tighter than if Archie Bell were a dominatrix.

So if ketchup is out, how do we decide which condiments deserve a home-spun reboot? To me, there are only a few reasons to bother making your own condiments. None of which applies to ketchup:


  • You can make it better than you can buy it;

  • It's difficult to find premade;

  • It's ridiculously simple to make;

  • With ingredients you probably have on hand;

  • In less time than it would take you to get it from the store.

Okay, so those last three are really one; I was getting sick of futzing around with formatting.

At any rate, in the list below are my top picks for condiments (perhaps a bit loosely defined) you should make at home:

vadouvan.JPG
Photo by Nicholas L. Hall
Vadouvan mise en place. You will need far more onions and shallots.
5. Vadouvan
I suppose, technically, you could call this a spice. Depending on how you make and use it, though, it easily falls into condiment territory. I first encountered vadouvan at a pop-up dinner from Oxheart chef Justin Yu where a cucumber was roasted in the curry-like blend of spices and alliums. I've used mine in a sort of pan-cultural spin on Yu's roasted cucurbit, mixed with the Korean dish nasu dengaku, eggplant broiled with a miso glaze. I mixed a bunch of my homemade vadouvan into the glaze, allowing the dusky and earthy flavors to add further depth to the sweet and savory topping. I've never seen my kids eat zucchini that fast.

Though vadouvan is not particularly difficult to prepare, it is time-consuming. This is an instance in which items one and two from the list above apply. Real, quality vadouvan can be a bit difficult to find in stores, and nothing beats a freshly made batch. Plus, making it at home gives you the option to keep it coarse or grind it to a fine paste, as well as control over the moisture content of the finished product. Set aside a weekend, buy all the onions and shallots you can find, and make vadouvan. I'm doing it regularly these days, if only to stave off the inevitable fever dreams that accompanied the vadouvan withdrawal I suffered after that first taste. Chefs are pushers, I swear.

Kosho.JPG
Photo by Nicholas L. Hall
Kosho, jarred and ready to cure in the fridge for a while.
4. Yuzu Kosho
This is another example of reasons one and two. I first started hearing about kosho a few years back, at around the same time I started noticing mention of vadouvan on cooking blogs like Ideas in Food and Studio Kitchen. I had no idea what it was. I've still only just begun experimenting with the stuff, and I'm already hooked. Basically, it's a combination of chiles and citrus zest, cured in salt. It's intensely aromatic, bitterly pungent and prickly with chile heat. It is far more than the sum of its parts, and it only gets better with time. When I made my first batch, the first day found it pleasant but unbalanced. After a few days in the fridge, it sparked and popped like fireworks, and I found myself eating it on, and in, everything. It's absolutely insane as a topping for grilled fish, and works wonders when tossed into a bunch of simply steamed vegetables.

I've never seen kosho in the store, but I've never really looked too hard for it. I'd be a bit surprised if it isn't available at one of Houston's many Asian markets. I have had a premade version of it, once, a gift from a kindhearted Houston chef (more on that later), and can testify that it can't hold a candle to the fresh stuff. In jarred form, it's like an overly aggressive yet somehow muted ghost of itself, focusing on salt and garlic for its punch, and not something I can see using as a straight topping. It's not bad, it's just different. If you're going to try kosho, do it right from the start.


Location Info

Oxheart

1302 Nance St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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16 comments
del.martinis
del.martinis topcommenter

My current favorite is Puerto Rican Sofrito!

jennytulltx
jennytulltx

I hate to be cranky, but oh well - I was expecting in the To It Yourself article to find your recipes for the items listed. But nooooo - so I am forced to troll the internet to find them. :(

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

Creme Fraiche.  Two ingredients, one step.  And to think they sell it for exorbitant prices at groceries.  Hollandaise.

marchost
marchost

Most recipes I've seen for kosho specify using yuzu zest.  Having never had it, I'm not sure what to substitute.  Any good recipes/ideas?

susanterrywilhelm
susanterrywilhelm

After taking Rob Walsh's class and getting his Tex-Mex Cookbook, I love making my own Chili Powder!  The difference between fresh and the bottle on the shelf is amazing!

Nate
Nate

"One thing we've always been able to agree on, ketchup-wise, is the futility of the "house-made" or, God forbid, "artisan" stuff. For better or for worse, there really is no improving on ketchup. Heinz has that one tied down tighter than if Archie Bell were a dominatrix."

 

Truer words were never spoken, Mr. Hall.  And don't even bring me that Hunts crap.  Has to be Heinz...

 

Condiments four and five seem pretty obscure.  What about salsa, probably the most consumed condiment?  Or, at least, pico de gallo...

nhallfreelance
nhallfreelance

A good question. I have a follow up post in the works, but any citrus will do fine. I used a combination of grapefruit, lemon, and lime.

nhallfreelance
nhallfreelance

 @Nate Those are certainly worthwhile considerations, particularly pico. Salsa, I would argue, is both ubiquitous and of good quality in pre-made form. It's certainly worth making at home, but it does not satisfy the list sufficiently to make the top five. Pico, on the other hand ...

alice
alice

Have you ever had the ketchup from Bernie's Burger Bus? Or fucking Whataburger ketchup? You and the author are insane if you think all ketchup is the same. FUCKING INSANE

Nate
Nate

@alice Oh, we totally agree. All ketchup is NOT the same. Heinz is the very best. It is what ketchup should taste like. And yes, I have had Bernie's, Whataburger's and even the Burger Guys attempt at ketchup.

mike
mike

 @alice you swear too much for a person "truly" named alice.  alices dont swear. 

nhallfreelance
nhallfreelance

 @alice Yes, and yes. I like Bernie's ketchup just fine. To me, though, it's not better enough to bother with making it at home. Also, when did I indicate that "all ketchup is the same?" Quite to the contrary, I assert that Heinz is ketchup king, and all others are pretenders. Of course, there is truly no love lost between myself and ketchup. Ketchup is only meant for fries (and only sometimes, at that), and as a meatloaf topping.

alice
alice

"For better or for worse, there really is no improving on ketchup."

 

Maybe not enough to make at home. But yes there are improvements on Heinz out there. Not that Heinz is bad.

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