I spend Sunday afternoons doing lunch prep, weeknight meal prep, and making fun stuff like condiments. Once I learned how crazy easy it is to make some of the foods I use all the time, I became an evangelist for saving money on certain items (dear every friend I have, I do apologize for my behavior, and, look!, I made you mustard!).
Some condiments are just plain fun to make. Others will save you money. And, yes, homemade condiments make excellent gifts. And that includes jams. I love sweet jams. I love savory jams. And I’m pretty excited about the homemade cranberry-jalepeno jam I received as a gift.
Here are some ideas for condiments you make quickly and easily:
- Salsa. In our house, salsa is always in the fridge. I’m not talking about the tomato-filled pico de gallo (though it does have its place). I’m talking about the full range of salsa: tomatillo-based, chile-based, fruit-based. Whipping up a batch is the work of minutes (depending on the recipe), and you will end up with a sauce that suits your taste. Here’s a list of ideas.
- Mustard. I was intimidated by the thought of making my own mustard…until I made my own mustard. It really is as simple as soaking your seeds in vinegar, wine, water, or a mix, then blending the mixture, adding a bit of salt, pepper, and turmeric if you want to enhance the yellow color. So, so easy. So, so good.
- Hummus. We eat A LOT of hummus. It is the lifeblood of our family, and we are lucky to live in a neighborhood with lots and lots of great Armenian and Lebanese restaurants. And lots of great hummus. Even our grocery store options are top of the line when it comes to pre-made hummus. Still, I frequently make my own. After all, it’s a matter of processing cooked chickpeas with tahini, some (roasted) garlic, a bit of lemon juice, paprika, and, of course, cumin to taste. Again, the benefit of making your own hummus comes from making the final product taste exactly the way you like it (me: heavy on the cumin and a good dose of lemon juice),
- Preserved Lemons. Yeah, sure, you can spent $10 or more for a jar of preserved lemons. Or you can just make your own. It’s, you know, as easy as packing cut lemons in salt, putting them in a jar, covering them with fresh lemon juice, and letting them do their thing for about a month. Once they’re done fermenting, you can use them in everything.
- Nut Butters. Basically, you can make your own nut butters by processing (roasted) nuts in your food processor. You’ll get a paste that can be thinned with a bit of oil, seasoned with salt, and enhanced with other flavors that suit your taste. If you are a huge nut butter consumer, buying fresh nuts in bulk and making your own butters is a great way to save money. If you are an occasional consumer, I suggest buying small quantities as you need the butters.
- Easy Fruit Jams. Having a party and need to impress your guests (the cranberry-jalapeno jam I mentioned above will be served on sweet potato slices with a dab of labneh or Greek yogurt)? Make a quick jam from fresh fruit, citrus, sugar, and bit of salt. Play with flavors (my friend has a jar of lime-tequila jam that is addictive; the lime rinds cook down to add marmalade-like texture to an already perfect jam).
- Ketchup. If you happen to find yourself in a situation where life gives you way too many Summer tomatoes, make ketchup. You can do small batches or make it a party with your friends; you probably won’t be the only one with too many tomatoes, too few recipes (or a family that refuses one more “tomato salad”).
- Quick Pickles. I keep pickled red onions and pickled carrots in my refrigerator all the time. They only take about ten minutes of work, and I toss into all sorts of recipes (or use them as garnish in a pinch). Your old friends salt, sugar, vinegar, and spices come together for flavor explosions, and if you want to get all fancy, do a pickle platter to set aside a cheese plate at your next party (I’m totally planning this for an upcoming event).
- Chile Paste. While this *technically* could qualify as a salsa, it gets its own category. Dried chiles, some fresh chiles, citrus juice (lemon or lime are my faves), garlic, onion, salt…you know the drill. Which leads me to…
- Curry Paste. Some curry pastes are a bit labor intensive, sure, but they bring on great flavor. If I’m making one curry, I’ll make three or four different styles at the same time as most of my favorites tend to have the same base ingredients. I’ll then store them in the refrigerator for up to a month and grab them as the meal plans dictate. Having curry paste on hand makes weeknight meals that much easier (and you can adjust the heat and flavor to suit yourself!).
Tip of the Week
Unless you are proficient in canning and / or food preservation, make small batches of homemade condiments. This ensures you will finish the product before it goes bad.
Gluten-Free Meal of the Week
It is common knowledge that I’m the one who asks for mustard for her fries. I’m not a huge ketchup person. Now that I’m making my own mustard on a regular basis, I always have plenty on hand. It’s that simple!
The first official “meal” I prepared was pork chops covered in mustard. I have no idea if the idea was stolen from an adult, or if, even then, I understood the power of mustard. Okay, I am guessing my mother or grandmother did the mustard thing. Even I wasn’t *that* precocious.
I still do use mustard as a coating for certain meats, but this week, I’m thinking more along the lines of a sauce that works well with chicken or pork (or even salmon). Basic sauces can elevate a dish, making something simple come off as much fancier than it really is.
- Chicken with Dijon-Cream Sauce
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts (if you need to add a bit of flavor, brush the cut ends with maple syrup or honey)