Many moons ago when I was in college, I somehow got recruited to help out with the production of the Senior Class Film. (At Wheaton College, where I went to school, every class made a film each year…some better than others…most better than this one.) I remember being really eager to be a big part of the production–after all, this was film we were talking about. Stardom! Fame! Playing to an audience of 2,000 who would promptly forget your class’s really bad movie! Yeah, it sounded awesome. In the end, though, I made no appearance in the film and for some reason the only thing I was called upon to contribute was a batch of fake blood.
What self-respecting college student wouldn’t take a picture like this after making fake blood?
What stood out to me about making fake blood was how easy it was. Surprisingly easy…sinisterly, wickedly easy. The only ingredients were water, corn syrup, food coloring, and corn starch. You don’t even have to go to the store to make blood!
Years later, as I became an adult trying to whip up meals for my family instead of bowls of fake blood for a class film, I realized a similar truth about condiments–those flavorful accompaniments that meals so much more enjoyable. Most condiments are made of very basic ingredients, meaning that when you run out of the pre-purchased kind, they aren’t usually too hard to throw together with things you already have on hand. Additional bonus: if you don’t like added sugars/chemicals/preservatives in your food, making your own condiments makes you the chef calling the shots.
Some condiments are, of course, more complicated than others. I’ve made teriyaki sauce from scratch and it was a paaaaaiiin. (Though it tasted fantastic.) So I thought I’d share four common condiments that are super simple to make from ingredients you probably have on hand–and taste a whole lot better than the store-bought version.
Since we just talked about fake blood, let’s start with ketchup, shall we? If you’ve never had homemade ketchup, you’re missing out. I made this not long ago when to accompany meatloaf and was amazed at how much more flavorful ketchup can be when you make it yourself and add your own mixture of spices. Since it uses tomato paste as its base, here’s a tip that has saved me many a can of wasted tomato paste: if you can’t use a whole can, freeze the remainder in 1-Tablespoon portions. So easy to pull out of the freezer when you just need that little bit!
Look at the baby tomato paste plops!
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. corn syrup
3/4 c. water
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. Simmer gently until you get the consistency of ketchup, 5-10 minutes.
Makes 1 1/2 cups.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall ever getting through an entire jar of tartar sauce before its expiration date. Mixing it up in a single-serving quantity is now my modus tartarus sauce-i. Fresher, tastier, and all-around better!
1 c. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish
1 Tbsp. minced onion (or 3/4 tsp. onion powder)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
salt and pepper
In a small bowl, mix together mayo, pickle relish, and minced onion. Stir in lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 1 cup.
Here’s an interesting blog post about the ingredients in Hershey’s chocolate syrup. If you get to the bottom of what Hershey’s and other companies put in their chocolate syrup, you’re kind of ruined for ever wanting to purchase it again. When I think of stirring chocolate syrup into my milkshake or drizzling it over ice cream, I for one am not thinking Mmmmm….Polysorbate 60. I’m thinking of cocoa powder, sugar, and vanilla, which is what this homemade version contains. It’s definitely thinner than the commercial version, which may take some getting used to, but it sweetens and chocolifies just as well (and you can keep thickening it with corn starch).
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)
scant 3/4 c. water
3/4 c. white sugar
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. corn starch
Combine the water, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and begins to simmer. Stir in vanilla. Slowly whisk in cornstarch until syrup has reached desired thickness.
Makes about 1 cup.
I’ve been using this taco seasoning mix for years and have no intention of ever going back to the store-bought kind. When I start running low on it, I just set out my little assembly line of spices, systematically go through them with my measuring spoons, and ta-da! In moments I have a little snap-top Ziploc container (the size I used to cart my kids’ pacifiers around in) filled with taco seasoning. A good rule of thumb for using this mixture is 3 tablespoons per pound of meat.
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
In a small bowl, mix all ingredients. Store in an air-tight container.
Makes 1 ounce.
Once you start making your own condiments, there’s no going back. Don’t be surprised if you find the cleaner ingredients and better, bolder flavors of the homemade versions keep you coming back to make just the little more effort it takes to whip them up yourself.