Well, it’s that time of year… time for grilling season and barbeques to begin! And that, of course, means the sudden spike in condiment use at our house. We’ve got good mayonnaise covered, but it seemed like a good time to think more about mustard and ketchup.
Basic grocery-store ketchups all include something GMO (Heinz ketchups include both corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, for example). With our commitment to GMO-free food going strong I figured I’d be buying fancy-pants organic ketchup all summer. Enter my newest food book, Food in Jars*. This awesome little book (great Christmas gift, Dad, thank you again!) has tons of recipes I will be trying out and reporting back on. But most importantly for summer grill season it contains recipes for homemade ketchups and mustards. In true Riva fashion I have mostly followed the recipes but also made variations suitable to a) what’s in my pantry and b) what I actually want to purchase and use.
In a nutshell, here’s what I’ve learned:
- Ketchups and mustards are both extremely versatile, forgiving, and fun. Experiment!
- Cider vinegar is absolutely necessary to anything pickle-y, condiment-y, etc. This is not the place to be budget-conscious, buy the good stuff.
- Sugar might be better here. I thought long and hard about trying out maple syrup in each recipe but decided against it for a few reasons. There are good quality organic cane sugars available out there and I want to support that industry, I did not want to futz with too-liquidy ketchups and mustards, and I have a strong desire to nail down sugar in preserving-condimenting recipes. These are usually smallish amounts of sugar and my hope is that that will be the maple sugar wedge I drive into the door of the American addiction to white sugar. It’s a big dream:)
Harold McGee notes that the word ketchup owes its origin to the name kecap, an Indonesian salty fish condiment that, like the fermented fish paste of sauce called garum in ancient Rome, made its way on to everything. Sounds about right! And in Food in Jars, Marisa McClellan prefaces her ketchup variations with a shout out to a pre-big industry time when ketchup could be made from all kinds and types of fruit, creating a much more exciting array of this condiment, each with their own best purpose or use.
I was super-curious about this one, especially Marisa’s note that the recipe makes more of a bbq-style condiment than the bright, brassy tomato ketchup we are all used to. I am including both the full recipe and the smaller-batch variation that I did.
Marisa’s – makes 3 1-pint/500 ml jars
- 3 pounds/1.4 kg seedless red grapes
- 3 c/720 ml apple cider vinegar
- 6 c/1.2 kg granulated sugar
- 2 T ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
Riva’s – makes one 1-pint jar, or two 1/2-pint jars
- 1 pound seedless red grapes
- 1 c cider vinegar
- 2 c organic cane sugar
- 1/2 T cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 1/2 tsp mustard powder
- pinch cayenne
So here’s what happened…I cooked the grapes, vinegar, and sugar down at a low simmer for about 30 minutes, until I could smoosh the grapes against the pot and have them break open. At this point, if you are using seedy grapes she recommends running this mixture through a food mill or sieve and then adding the pulp back in. My grapes weren’t seedy so I didn’t do this. Then add the spices and cook another 30 or so minutes until the ketchup is thick and spreadable. The result? Incredibly stiff “jam” with a flavor profile akin to watermelon-rind pickles, which I love and Travis hates. It does indeed make a great bbq sauce, but it requires a knife to scoop it out and some thinning before it is spreadable. I think leaving the grape skins in contributed to this stiffness so I recommend food milling/sieving the mixture regardless of seedy or seedless grapes. I probably will not make this again but I’m enjoying having it in my kitchen for now!
I was most hopeful and excited about this recipe. Being in Maine and surrounded by cranberries come fall I had big plans for canning up a large batch in the fall during fresh cranberry season if the recipe was any good. For now, I had to satisfy myself with a pound of frozen cranberries. I am including both the full recipe and the quarter-batch variation that I did.
Marisa’s – makes 6 1/2-pint/250 ml jars
- 4 pounds/1.8 kg fresh cranberries
- 2 1/2 c/400 g chopped yellow onion
- 2 c/480 ml apple cider vinegar
- 4 c/800 g (packed) light brown sugar
- 1 T salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 T whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
- 1 T allspice berries
- 1 T celery seed
Riva’s – makes just shy of one 1-pint jar
- 1 pound frozen cranberries, thawed
- 3/4 c chopped yellow onion
- 1/2 c cider vinegar
- 1 c organic light brown sugar (unpacked – I’m lazy)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- pinch pepper
- 1 tsp whole cloves
- 1/2 cinnamon stick, somewhat smashed
- 1 tsp allspice berries
- 1 tsp celery seed
Much like the grape ketchup, it starts with the fruit, the vinegar, and the sugar cooked until the fruit skins break down. This you definitely need to sieve, and doing so is part of what has convinced me the grape ketchup needs to be sieved. The texture was immeasurably improved! But I’m getting ahead. Sieve it and then add the spices in a tea-ball or cheesecloth, and simmer until it’s the thickness you like. Remove the spices and enjoy! And oh, did we. Yum. Good texture, and the celery seed rescues it just enough from the warm spices so that it’s ketchup-y but so much better than Heinz. I want to add vodka to it and drink it. I will definitely be canning up a large quantity come fresh cranberry season!
Mustard seeds and powdered mustard come from the mustard greens plants, kin to all those great brassicas such as kale, kohlrabi, and brussels sprouts. Once upon a time it was used medicinally to cure the common cold. Today it’s my go-to at sandwich shops when I want a kick on the sandwich and when I don’t trust their mayonnaise. And the variations here are endless – make it spicy, smoky, sweet, whatever!
Grainy White Wine Mustard
I love grainy mustards so I was excited to give this one a whirl.
Marisa’s – makes 3 1/2 pint jars
- 1/2 c/90 g yellow mustard seeds
- 1/4 c/45 g brown mustard seeds
- 1 c/240 ml dry white wine
- 1 c/240 ml apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 c/65 g (packed) light brown sugar
- 1 T garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest
I did not change the quantities here, so I’ll just run through my steps and alterations. (1) I used all yellow mustard seeds – couldn’t find brown seeds at the natural foods stores and I wasn’t in the mood for a central Maine goose chase. (2) No wine in the house so I used dry vermouth. I brought the seeds and vermouth to a boil and then let them sit for 2 hours – Marisa says 2-12 hours until the wine is absorbed, but the timing forced me to go with 2 hours. I don’t recommend this – definitely wait until the liquid is absorbed! Because the next step of adding one cup of water to the seeds and breaking them down was really just an exercise in futility. No pureeing happened, just lots of seeds whizzing around. So I added the seeds back to the pot with the remaining ingredients. For me, this was the vinegar, organic light brown sugar, salt, pepper, and zest. Didn’t have any garlic or onion powder on hand and I did not want to buy any. It sort of felt like I was sticking my tongue out to cookbook authors everywhere, but there it is. I took it off the heat and let is sit overnight, and then pureed until I got a texture I liked, so alls well that ends well. Except that it didn’t really end that well. There is a distinctly bitter taste to this that verges on unpalatable (although James did actually walk around the house “sipping” some from a tupperware container – palatable to some I guess). I will let is sit for another few days to see if it mellows, and then I’m going to have to get to work with some maple syrup.
Spicy Honey Mustard
I suspected just from reading the recipe that this would become my go-to mustard, so easy to make up and so easy to modify. Here’s Marisa’s recipe:
Marisa’s – makes 4 1/4 pint jars
- 1 c/90 g dry mustard
- 1 c/240 ml cider vinegar
- 1/3 c/75 ml honey
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Again, no change in quantity or ingredients so I’ll just go through the steps. Combine the ingredients, bring to a simmer and whisk for 5-6 minutes. Seriously. It was so easy, and the appearance was so satisfying, glossy and rich! I wish I could say that I liked it, but I don’t. Again, there is a bitterness to it that verges on bleh. I’ll let this one sit as well to see if the flavor mellows.
Now, lest you think Marisa has led us astray, I do think there is something going on with both of these recipes ending up bitter. The quality of the seeds and powder might be affecting things – Food Lover’s Companion notes that seeds are good for about a year, and powdered mustard for about 6 months. I checked out ingredients of store-bought mustards and there is very little that is different. French’s yellow mustard contains mustard seed, turmeric (explains that yellow!), water, and vinegar, and Annie’s Naturals organic dijon mustard contains vinegar, water, mustard seed, salt, and cloves. It could also be as simple as the mustard needing to mellow out for a few days once it’s made up. Stay tuned, if more explanations or improvements appear I’ll make an update to this post…
So there it is. Ketchup and mustard are just that easy that mix up. So go make a (grass-fed, hormone-free) burger already!
*Check out her great blog, Food in Jars.