Wednesday food post: Sauces and condiments
Posted On March 24, 2010
I’m all about reducing food waste. So many little packages to sift through when it comes to our food! Jeff and I made a conscious decision a while back to buy as much as we can in bulk, and what we can’t we try to get in containers that we’ll use again or recycle (and actually, our local co-op takes back plastic containers for people to put their bulk stuff in!). It’s not super easy to get our food waste down, and I bet that’s where the majority of your average person’s trash comes from. This is part of why I’m a serious supporter of composting- which everyone can do regardless of their living/yard space- but I’ll get into that another day. Anyway, after a few years of learning how to buy in bulk and reuse and what have you, we barely come up with a full trash bin every two weeks, and our recycling isn’t any more impressive (the bin is mostly filled with bottles and pizza boxes from our downstairs neighbor who still eats out quite a bit, and our contribution is mostly junk mail and a glass bottle here and there). This makes me feel good. I see no reason to contribute to this if I don’t have to. And I’m learning that I really don’t have to.
One of the things that I always got in small family-sized containers rather than one of my reusable jars or tubs was sauces and condiments. Salad dressings, mayonnaise, marinades, etc. Little did I know, you can whip up a batch of just about any condiment/sauce you could imagine in mere minutes. It’s FAR better for you than anything you could get at the store. Condiments these days are filled with preservatives, hydrogenated oils, sugar, corn syrup, genetically modified crap, soybean everything, and just… a bunch of junk. They are arguably bad for you. If you make them yourself you get a far superior product- both in taste and quality. So, I thought I would share a few of the condiments I make regularly.
First, I have to give due credit to one of my favorite kitchen appliances- the food processor. Without this old guy, I wouldn’t make half the stuff that I do. Well, maybe I would, but I’d have much stronger forearms with all the whisking…
Okay, so first is salad dressing. It is SO easy, and SO fast, I don’t know why I ever bought it. There are some dressings that are harder to recreate like Caesar and Ranch and stuff (well, they are actually pretty easy, but I don’t tend to have anchovies and Parmesan around a lot), but any vinaigrette is a breeze to make. I vary my dressings based on what I have, but the basic dressing is this:
1 part wine/cider/balsamic vinegar
3 parts olive oil
Dollop of mustard (preferably Dijon or some kind of brown mustard, the bright yellow stuff just takes over)
1 clove of crushed garlic
salt & pepper
This particular dressing took me… oh, 45 seconds to make. It’s the basic dressing plus one green onion and some parsley. I feel like green lately. However, you can go any number of directions with this. You can add honey, fresh herbs, tomatoes, yogurt (to make it creamy), spices, anything really. You can also add interesting things like sesame or walnut oil, fresh lemon juice, tahini or peanut butter, or even roasted veggies… I mean, if you find it at the store you can probably recreate it, and better. This dressing keeps well in the fridge, and it usually just needs a shake like any other dressing once the oil separates. In the summer when I have loads of fresh herbs and salad greens, I usually just whipped up a dressing right before serving it. It’s really that fast and easy.
Obvious advantages to making your own dressing is that everything that goes in can be assuredly organic and non-GMO, and also is way fresher. It’s also really important to be conscious of what kinds of oils you are ingesting. Many oils are actually kind of toxic for us- they wreak havoc on our systems. In everything I make I try to keep everything organic or as high-quality as possible, and I stay away from commercial vegetable oils.
Making mayonnaise is SO FUN. I love watching it come together- it always amazes me. Cheap thrills!
1 egg + extra yolk
1 dollop of mustard (again, Dijon or brown, not the bright yellow stuff- it’ll taste like nothing but that if you use it)
1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice or cider vinegar
pinch of salt
3/4-1 cup of oil (I like to use good quality sunflower oil. I’ve found that olive oil works too, but overwhelms the flavor, IMO)
1 tablespoon of whey (optional)
I add everything but the oil and blend well (partially to get the eggs closer to room temperature).
Then you slowly add the oil while it’s blending- a steady drizzle, but you don’t want to add it too fast or else it will separate. I don’t even measure it anymore, I just know when it looks right.
Isn’t that cool? Again, like one minute to make. SO FUN!
If you do add whey then leave the mayo out on the counter for 7 hours to let it culture, then refrigerate.
Again, you get to control the quality of your ingredients, and you stay away from the nasty oils that they put in store bought mayo. There is olive oil mayonnaise at stores now, but I think the price of making it at home is actually comparable and you can make it entirely organic. So that’s cool. Also- this mayo is better for you. No, it’s actually good for you! I’ll just quote from my Nourishing Traditions cookbook:
"Homemade mayonnaise imparts valuable enzymes, particularly lipase, to sandwiches, tuna salad, chicken salad, and many other dishes and is very easy to make in a food processor. The addition of whey will help your mayonnaise last longer, adds enzymes and increases nutrient content."
3 cups tomato paste
1/4 cup whey
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup fish sauce
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
Blend. Done! Leave on the counter for two days (to let the whey culture the ketchup) and then refrigerate. Makes a quart of really delicious ketchup that is good for you!
We eat this all the time, and Vera could eat it with a spoon (and has when I wasn’t looking).
You might be wondering what the use of whey is all about, and the easiest way to explain it is that it’s a natural way to preserve your food through the use of lactic acid producing bacteria (the same kind of bacteria that lives all throughout your body, and is very good for us… and it’s also the reason we have cheese!). Sadly, now these traditional condiments are largely preserved through the use of corn syrup, etc., and I don’t even need to get into that. So basically, the use of whey in these recipes helps to preserve your condiments (they’ll last for months in the fridge) and it provides you with a little probiotic boost and increases the nutrient content.
Making whey is really easy, too. You can use raw milk- just set it out on the counter until it separates, then strain it through a cloth lining a colander and let the whey drip out into a clean glass container. If you don’t have raw milk, you can strain some active plain yogurt the same way. The whey keeps for months in the fridge.
The other thing I wanted to mention is that making your own condiments/dressings is only sometimes cheaper. Salad dressing- cheaper. Most sauces and marinades- cheaper. Sometimes, like in the case of ketchup, it’s more expensive. I mean, it might be comparable if you are getting really good organic ketchup, but I won’t lie and say that it’s cheaper than your generic squeeze bottle at the store. However, my take on this is that we’ve mis-priced our foods, and that money price is not what we should solely consider when thinking about this stuff.
Most of the time the cost of these foods are not just what you see on the price sticker. There’s the cutting of costs when it comes to mass-production of any food. Whether it’s through the use of pesticides, insecticides, antibiotics and hormones, genetic modification, etc., the cost to our environment and it’s inhabitants is huge. There’s also cuts in labor costs, resource theft, and on and on. Then there’s the obvious toll it takes on our health, our energy levels, etc. It just depends on how you look at it.
The other thing that I’ve found is that I’ve offset the cost of some of these things by spending less in other areas. For example, I spend more to make ketchup, but I spend far less by buying dry beans and bulk grains. I also think that I eat less and have more energy than I used to. I think the reason is because my food is whole and good for me, and my body knows how to use what I put in it. So, I’m learning to think about the cost of my food differently.
What about you? Are there any sauces that you make/would like to make?