Sometimes food just needs a little help. Brats need mustard. Crab cakes go great with Aioli. You can't have mashed potatoes without ketchup (or so says my daughter). Condiments are so useful and so ubiquitous that not being able to make them locally is a big oversight in any local food plan.
All of the preparations I did below were not done using locally sourced ingredients. In fact, I didn't even try to local source them. There are a couple reasons for this. The most important reason is that I have never made ketchup or mustard before. Having never made them before, I thought it more cost effective to do a practice run using less expensive ingredients, learn how to make the stuff, work out the kinks in the recipes, then spend the money for local ingredients later when I know I'm not going to screw it up.
Making Ketchup Local
If you look at the ingredients, ketchup is really an Autumn and Winter food--after we've eaten our fill of late summer sliced tomatoes but want to keep that sunny goodness going through the dark months. By spring you've probably used up whatever ketchup you'd made. Besides, spring foods don't really lend themselves to ketchup (fiddle heads and ketchup anyone?).
I went for the simplest recipe that I could find, thinking that I could make fancy ketchup later, but I at least needed to know the basics first. I used my Epicurious app to find a simple homemade ketchup recipe that got good reviews. It wasn't hard to find. There were several.
My thoughts were also leaning toward how I could adapt the recipe to 100% local ingredients, knowing that not all ingredients can be sourced locally. Here are the original ingredients:
- Canned Tomatoes
- Olive Oil
- Tomato Paste
- Brown Sugar
- Cider Vinegar
Most of these seem pretty easy to replace.
Canned tomatoes = Fresh Tomatoes, blanched and peeled
Onion = Onion
Olive Oil = Olive Oil
Tomato paste = This can probably be skipped. may not have as strong a tomato flavor, but i think it will be okay.
Brown Sugar = a little bit harder. the closest we can get is local honey. This would add an interesting herby sweetness.
Cider vinegar = it is possible to find from a local orchard, but it is also pretty easy to make at home.
Salt = you'd have to make your own salt.
Worchestershire Sauce = just skip it.
Bourbon-Chipotle Sauce = use some local crushed red pepper.
A note about preparing ketchup. This was my first time and one thing that I learned is that the texture of ketchup is really key to it tasting like ketchup. Or maybe I should say the lack of texture. Store bought ketchup is completely smooth, it has no texture at all. I used the fine plate on a food mill for mine, but it still had little tiny chunks in it. These chunks make it seem a little bit like tomatoes sauce, rather than ketchup. Next time, I'll make sure to run mine through a fine chinois to get all the chunks out and achieve that super smooth ketchup texture.
Making Mustard Local
I like course grain mustard more than any other condiment, so I was really looking forward to this experiment. I was hoping to replicate McMenamins Terminator Stout whole grain mustard, which I think is pretty good. But it turned out to be harder than I thought.
To make whole grain mustard, I looked to James Peterson's great book, Sauces. He has a very simple whole grain mustard recipe in there, that I adapted to use beer instead of wine and malt vinegar in stead of wine vinegar.
- Mustard Seed
- McMenamins' Terminator Stout
- Malt Vinegar
- Salt and Pepper
Mustard Seed = not sure. I haven't found a local Oregon producer of mustard seed.
Shallot = shallot
McMenamins' Terminator Stout. = Unfortunately, although this is produced locally it is not sourced locally. You'd have to substitute for something like Rogue Brewery's Chateau Rogue Black Lager. The Chateau Rogue line of beers are all sourced 100% locally by Oregon farms. These are the only line of beers that I have found that do not use any imported ingredients. Go Rogue!
Malt vinegar = Cider vinegar? Local vinegar options are very limited. There are some fruit vinegars and Cooper Mountain vineyard makes a local Oregon Balsamic. However, all of these are cost prohibitive. When I started looking around, I did not find a single Oregon vineyard that was making wine vinegar. None of them wanted to divert part of their crop from wine production. This is a real bummer for local food. I understand there are cost pressures and growers want to get the highest margin they can, but by neglecting the basic ingredients, we are left having to import what could easily be created here.
Salt and pepper = you can make your own salt, but pepper is just not available.
A note about making mustard. When mustard is first made, it is hot. I thought I'd messed something up when my mustard tasted like wasabi-horseradish-vinegar-fire sauce. Mustard needs time to mellow, and there is no telling just how long that will take. Right now, my mustard has been mellowing for 3 days and it is still a little too hot for my taste. Luckily, mustard does not go bad, so you can leave it out and take a taste every day to see where it is at. When letting your mustard mellow, make sure not to put it in the refrigerator. Refrigeration basically stops the mellowing process and your mustard will be fixed at that heat. I didn't know this at first and put one jar in the refrigerator. Three days later the other jars are developing a nice flavor while that one jar still makes my eyes water.
Making Mayonnaise Local
Local mayo is not really possible simply because every recipe I found called for canola oil or peanut oil, neither of which we have here. What we do have is olive oil. And we have garlic. This mean that while we can't make traditional mayonnaise, we can make something better--Aioli. Aioli is like garlic mayonnaise, but a little bit different. It has less ingredients, is full of garlic and tastes outstanding on crab cakes. It is better than mayonnaise in my book.
I turned again to James Peterson's Sauces for a simple Aioli recipe, and really it couldn't get simpler.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Egg Yolk
- Salt and Pepper
- Lemon Juice
Garlic = garlic
Egg yolks = no problem
Salt and Pepper = make your own salt, but pepper is out. That's okay though, because the pepper doesn't
really contribute that much in this recipe.
Lemon Juice = it is possible to find local Meyer lemons. But you gotta look.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil = Extra Virgin Olive Oil. There are several producers of local olive oil for this, but cost will be an issue. The recipe in Peterson's book calls for 2 cups of oil. That is 16 ounces of oil. Considering that a 12.7 ounce bottle of oil from Red Ridge Farms costs around $17, you can see that this will not be a cheap aioli. In fact, it would say that it is cost prohibitive to make aioli with local oil.
A note about making aioli. If your aioli breaks while you are making it, James Peterson says to beat an extra egg yolk, then add the broken aioli to is slowly to re-bind it. This worked for me. Peterson also says that extra virgin olive oil is fragile and will become bitter if over worked. However, when I looked on YouTube, I found plenty of chefs using their Kitchen Aids to do the mixing. I tried doing the hand method then resorted to a Kitchen Aid to get the job finished. It seemed to work for me.
Overall, most condiments can be simplified and adapted to local ingredients just fine. There are a couple sticking points though, mainly with vinegars and oils. This really brings to the front a problem that I have been running into more and more with local sourcing in general. Eating local is more than a nice chicken from the farmer's market or a pint of u-pick strawberries or a bag of sweet corn in late summer from Sauvie's Island. While all these things can be wonderful, the food we eat every day is made up of many more ingredients. Almost all of these can be sourced locally, but are not. Cost pressures and thin margins lead growers to pass them over because they do not generate the profit that "premium" products do. But if we are really, truly going to cook and eat locally, we need to find ways to source all our ingredients locally. Eating local cannot be a "gourmet" event every day. There is a place for premium products, but we need the staples too.