Crazy for Condiments

Growing up in the 1970s, we always had the basic condiments on hand: ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard and relish. In the early 70s, you couldn’t find tapenade, green goddess dip, or soy sauce in my family’s refrigerator (Sushi hadn’t hit the USA yet). Tabasco was the only hot sauce, and Nutella wasn’t big until the 1980s when I was introduced to it by a European exchange student that took home economics with me.

Since then, the list of condiments available at the grocery store has exploded as fast as a ketchup packet being stomped on, and now condiments are EVERYWHERE. A condiment is a sauce or other preparation that is added to food to enhance its flavor or appearance. Condiments are usually added after the food has been cooked and can be either dry or wet. A condiment could be something as simple as salt or as complex as the ketchup that I spent three days making for this article. I never realized how picky I was about ketchup until I tried to make my own. In comparing my homemade ketchup with the iconic Heinz Tomato Ketchup, I found out it does take many tiny tastes and ingredient adjustments to get ketchup just right.

The end of May marks the unofficial beginning of summer with the three-day Memorial weekend. It also is one of the most popular holidays for firing up the grill. Ketchup is perhaps the most classic cookout condiment, but its predecessor was nothing like the tangy tomato sauce we lather on our burgers and fries today. The original ketchup actually had no tomatoes in it. The recipe has appeared in documents as far back as 300 B.C. and was made of fermented fish paste from Southern China and called “Koe-cheup.” It was easy to store on long voyages and on various trade routes British traders discovered they liked the salty condiment. New recipe variations of the original changed over the centuries, but in 1812 a Philadelphia scientist named James Mease was credited with the ketchup condiment that we know today. However, its popularity soared when the Heinz company began making it with vinegar to preserve it and placed it in glass bottles in 1876, according to history.com. After making it myself, I have a new appreciation for the energy and culinary nuance that goes into making ketchup. If you are game, try my recipe below.

It feels like mustard should be considered a close sibling of ketchup as they always appear together on the cookout table. However, mustard has a separate history. Mustard is made from the seeds of the mustard plant and has been used in China and Africa for thousands of years. Often mustards come in varying colors and sharpness that is based on the kind of mustard seed and the other ingredients added to it like wine or vinegar. The bright yellow mustard we think about for hot dogs was introduced at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair by the R.T. French company. If you like hot mustard, enjoy the recipe below.

The origins of mayonnaise are murky, however there does seem to be much correlation between the creamy condiment and Mahon, Spain. It’s also the number one condiment in the U.S. and accounts for about $2 billion in sales every year, according to wonderopolis.org. Made of oil and egg, it is the basis for many other condiments like tartar sauce or green goddess dressing. For green goddess dressing, the most accepted theory regarding its inception points to California. At the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in 1923, when the hotel’s executive chef Philip Roemer wanted something to pay tribute to actor George Arliss and his hit play, “The Green Goddess.” As the capegazette.com wrote, George invented this dressing, which, like the play, became a hit. There are widely varying recipes for green goddess dip or dressing, but almost all of them contain mayonnaise and anchovies. Below is a copy of the original recipe, with a dairy and seafood free option that I concocted.

Depending upon what country you live in, condiment preferences change. In Australia, they like Vegemite (concentrated extracts of onion, malt and celery). In Britain, marmite is popular and, although its recipe is a trade secret, I do know it contains yeast and vegetable extracts and vitamins. South Koreans enjoy gochujang, which is made from red chili pepper flakes, sticky rice and fermented soybeans. Grocery stores are packed with condiments – yes, whole aisles! According to Statista, the average volume per person in the sauces and condiments market in 2024 is expected to amount to over 30 pounds per person! That’s a copious amount of sauce.

So, with the initiation of the grilling season kicking off, not only do hot dogs and hamburgers come to mind but also the condiments that make them the perfect warm season meal. Perhaps you’d like to experiment with a new condiment or try to perfect a classic. Either way, don’t forget the salt and pepper, the original and best condiment that sit side by side at every table. Next month I’ll talk about their history; I’m sure it will be spicy!

Cathy Schmidt writes from Trappe where she and her husband Chef Brian Schmidt own Garden and Garnish Catering. A food explorer, Cathy loves to garden and cook from scratch.

Homemade Ketchup

56 oz can of crushed tomatoes or 56 oz of fresh peeled then crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup plus 1 T distilled white vinegar

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp celery salt

1 1/4 tsp mustard powder

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 3/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Optional: 1/2 tsp paprika or dash of hot sauce if you want it to have a little kick.

Pour all ingredients into a slow cooker. Cook on high uncovered, until mixture is reduced to less than half and thickens. This should take 10 to 12 hours. Stir every hour. When ready, place in a blender and blend until smooth like ketchup. Ladle ketchup into a fine strainer and press mixture with the back of a ladle to strain out any skins and seeds. Cool completely. Taste and adjust seasonings according to your liking. Refrigerate.

Fresh Mustard (with a kick)

4 oz can of Colemans dry mustard

1 cup apple cider vinegar

2 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

Combine dry mustard and vinegar and soak overnight. The next day, beat the other ingredients into the mustard and then cook in a double boiler for about 8 minutes or until thick. Do not boil. Cool and pour into jars at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate. Makes about 2 cups.

Traditional Green Goddess Dressing*

 3 anchovy filets
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup snipped chives
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 T lemon juice
1 T white wine vinegar
Salt & pepper, to taste

Rinse anchovy filets, pat dry and mince. Stir together with remaining ingredients in a small bowl, blending well. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately or place in a sealed container and refrigerate. *Adapted from the Palace Hotel’s 1923 recipe.

Green Goddess Dip

The Ultimate Vegetable Accessory. This is dairy and seafood free.

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1/3 cup packed chives

1/3 cup packed parsley

1/2 cup packed fresh spinach

1/2 tsp dill weed

1 tsp lemon juice

1 T white vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until well combined. Adjust seasonings to taste – perfect dip for fresh veggies. Refrigerate.

Cathy Schmidt whipped up a batch of Green Goddess Dip for her family to enjoy with carrot sticks.

Olive Tapenade

2 cups pimento stuffed green olives

2 cups Kalamata olives

1/4 cup olive oil

2 T capers, drained

2 T balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 T whole grain mustard

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 T fresh chopped sweet basil

Garnish with chopped parsley

In a food processor, combine all ingredients and chop except for the basil. Stop and scrape the sides a few times. Stir in basil and transfer to a storage container and refrigerate. When ready to serve, top with fresh chopped parsley. This is delicious served with fresh baked bread, artisanal crackers or baguette style toasted croutons. It also pairs well with hummus and carrot chips. Makes about 4 cups.

Resources and Readings

www.history.com/news/ketchup-surprising-ancient-history

https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/What’s-the-Most-Popular-Condiment#

www.ferrero.com/int/en/about-us/a-story-of-a-family

www.nytimes.com/2009/04/13/fashion/13iht-design13.html?_r=1

www.capegazette.com/article/history-green-goddess-dressing/165874#:~:text=

www.statista.com/outlook/cmo/food/sauces-spices/united-states

 

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