Homemade Condiments Offer Better Quality, Less Plastic Waste

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For years, I’ve made my own salad dressing. I started with simple vinaigrettes and branched out to ranch, vegetarian Caesar salad, and Thousand Island. I serve and store the dressings in my rustic corked-topped salad dressing bottles, which not only impress guests, but also keep a few glass and plastic bottles out of the recycling bin. (Is all of that plastic really getting recycled?)

My household progressed to homemade enchilada sauce and savory-seasoning blends created from our own spice cabinet, guaranteeing that our condiments are free from partially hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, and any other synthetic concoctions that had been slipped into our commercial foods over the last 60 years.

But there were some crucial condiments I had ignored, and the reality stared me in the face as I grabbed our household recycling bin to take outside for pickup. An empty plastic mayonnaise jar sat at the top, razzing me with its label that had the words “partially hydrogenated soybean oil” tucked away in the fine print – just like a credit card statement that hides all the nasty details.

I cursed the fact that we let our guard down and vowed to research homemade mayonnaise recipes. It was a process that frightened me, as I remembered the one and only time I tried to make homemade mayonnaise. I was a teenager, and I tried making mayonnaise with the commercial corn oil we happened to have in the house.

After I discarded the mayonnaise jar, my husband Doug and I ran out to pick up a few groceries. Knowing that we were going to grill out that evening, he wanted barbecue sauce. After examining almost every brand on the shelf, all of the labels revealed high-fructose corn syrup as a top ingredient. I also thought of all those plastic bottles and where they really ended up after use. We left without purchasing barbecue sauce, another condiment I knew we could make ourselves.

The homemade barbecue sauce was so easy that I’m embarrassed I hadn’t tried it sooner. Most recipes I found called for a base of 15 ounces unseasoned tomato sauce, 1/2 cup vinegar (I used apple cider), and 1/4 cup each of honey, tomato paste and molasses. Worchester sauce, liquid smoke, paprika, garlic powder, pepper and onion powder are added according to taste. I threw in a pinch of chipotle powder to my batch. Whisk all ingredients together in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes or until thickened.

My batch filled three pint-sized Mason jars. Doug claims it’s the best barbecue sauce he’s ever tasted.

The mayonnaise was a little trickier. Proper emulsion seems to be the key, so no wonder why my teen experiment – mixing by hand homemade mayonnaise with heavy oil –resulted in a gloppy paste not fit for man or beast.

Most oils are too thick to use for homemade mayonnaise. My successful batches of homemade mayonnaise involved light oils – canola, sunflower or safflower. Sunflower leaves a pleasant nutty taste, but it can be expensive.

Whisk 1 egg in a deep bowl (you’ll find out why a deep bowl is needed) with 1/4 cup canola (or sunflower or safflower) oil. Add 1 teaspoon ground mustard and a dash each of black pepper and paprika. Whisk again. Using an immersion blender, slowly add 1 additional cup of oil, a couple teaspoons at a time, while blending. This is where it can get messy if your bowl is too shallow. The splash factor is high, especially with my old immersion blender.

Once all the oil is blended in, manually stir in about 3 tablespoons lemon juice or white vinegar. Refrigerate in a reusable container.