A Killer Condiment

By now, I have told you all about my allergy to the dreaded G… Garlic. Through the ether I can hear the gasps of horror from those who didn't already know! But, please, don’t cry for me, Argentina! Nor do I want your crocodile tears, Florida! Instead, take Lewis Carroll’s words from Through the Looking Glass: “Consider anything, only don’t cry!”

It turns out there is life after garlic. I suspect this allergy caused me to be such a passionate cook. When 99.95 % of American recipes call for garlic, the allergenic chef needs to get creative, lest one die… either real death or simply culinary ennui.

When my friends cook for me, I am amazed by their care in cooking without garlic. They carefully scan the ingredients of canned tomatoes, jars of roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and prepared foods, where the dreaded G often lurks.

What usually trip them up, though, are condiments: things as ordinary as mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, and the like. One thinks of such a condiment as the ingredient, rather than as a conglomeration of many ingredients.

"Who would put garlic in Dijon mustard?" they might ask. "Certainly not the French!" I would reply. Friends reasonably assume innocuous mayonnaise is garlic-free, yet today's fancy “gourmet” mayos often include it. Friends don’t notice garlic in ketchup, but several brands include it.

In my effort not to die from these killer condiments, I have learned to make just about every condiment on earth, mustard, mayo and ketchup included. Happily, there are many good brands available in the store without garlic, I don't always need to make my own, which is a good thing, as my attempt at home-made Dijon didn't come close to a real Dijon. I’m content to buy Maille brand mustard; it’s the best. Homemade ketchup requires a billion ripe tomatoes to yield rather little in the end. Pass me the Heinz, for Pete's sake!

Mayonnaise is a different story. Mine is better than store bought, although for convenience I’ll still turn to Hellmann's or Best Foods brands as it makes little sense to prepare a whole batch when I need only a tablespoon or two.

There is, however, one condiment I cannot find garlic-free, so I have no choice but to make my own. It is Worcestershire sauce. And, like my mayo, my Worcestershire sauce rocks! Sorry, Lea & Perrins, but my friends agree that once they have had mine, there is no turning back.

It is easy to make, though it requires a three-week maceration of the ingredients - a small price to pay for a (non) killer condiment. I never much noticed Worcestershire sauce before, but it is now one of my favorite flavors whether for half an avocado or on steamed vegetables or to enliven grilled meat. It makes a great gift too. I recommend making a double batch, half to keep, and half to give to friends. They will think you are brilliant.

Happy Seasoning in this Happy Season!

~ David

Worcestershire Sauce

2 cups distilled white vinegar

1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup soy sauce (gluten-free, if desired)
1/4 cup tamarind paste (see note)
3 tablespoons yellow or brown mustard seeds
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
5 cardamom pods, smashed
4 chiles de árbol, chopped
1 1-inch piece of stick cinnamon
1 anchovy, chopped (omit for vegetarian version)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 half-inch piece ginger, peeled and crushed
1/2 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients except the sugar in a 4- to 6-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the sugar in a skillet over medium-high heat until it becomes dark amber and syrupy – about 5 minutes. Add the caramelized sugar to the vinegar mixture (it will spatter!) and whisk to combine. Cook sauce for 5 minutes at a simmer and then transfer to a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate, covered, for 3 weeks. (If you steep longer, the heat of the peppers gets more pronounced.) Strain to remove solids and divide among small bottles. Refrigerate for up to 8 months. Makes about 2 cups.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,