March 2010

Legions of jarsHello, hello to all of you visiting from Jennifer McMullen’s article on the Ethicurean web site. Take a tour around the site, learn a bit about the group, see some photos of the group, peruse the store for “Yes. We Can.” items, and see what events we’ve got coming up in Ann Arbor and West Bloomfield, Michigan.

If you are interested in starting a branch of Preserving Traditions in your town, or in attending a “train the trainers” session, see the “Start Your Own” page or contact me at


A nice crowd (was that 10 people?) participated in Sunday’s workshop on ketchup, mustard, and salad dressing. Even though Kraft and Heinz would like you to think these things are something only they can make, about half our folks had made at least one of these items before at home. It made me thankful, yet again, that we still have some traditions to preserve, and we aren’t starting entirely from scratch!

Download the workshop’s condiment recipes here.

Ketchup basics: Ketchup is made from concentrated tomatoes (simmered-down puree or even tomato paste) and seasoned with vinegar, salt, sugar, and a somewhat surprising blend of spices: cinnamon, allspice, cloves, cayenne, and sometimes onion and garlic. Two recipes are included in the downloadable recipe packet.

Mustard basics: The type of mustard seed you use really matters! Don’t use all brown or black mustard seeds; use some yellow ones as well. The darker mustard seeds have a more bitter flavor and can be overwhelming if used alone. Dried mustard powder can be used alone or with whole mustard seeds, depending on the kind of mustard you want to make. If using whole seeds, soak them overnight in water and vinegar so they’ll crack open when you put them in the blender the next day.

Mustard changes flavor a lot over time. The first day you mix it up, it might be too strong (hot and/or musky) to eat right away. Let it mellow a week or more in the fridge, and it’ll probably taste much better. An exception to this is mustard made from mustard powder and water or vinegar. If you want nose-searingly hot mustard, make it just before serving and don’t bother saving the leftovers. Like wasabi, it’ll singe your nose hairs but lose potency over time.

Salad dressing basics: Salad dressing is usually a variation on oil + vinegar + spice. Since oil and water don’t mix, you either need to constantly re-mix it, or find some kind of emulsifier (a substance that binds the water and oil together). Xanthan gum is commonly used to emulsify commercial salad dressing; we also discussed whether prepared mustard can help salad dressing stay emulsified.

Homogenized dairy and mayonnaise are both emulsions, and they can help emulsify other ingredients. Ranch dressing, for example, gets its sourness from buttermilk and yogurt or sour cream and its fat from mayo. (You can also leave the mayo out for a thinner, lower-fat dressing.)

A standard vinaigrette traditionally has two parts oil to one part vinegar – but you’ll want to use a tasty oil (like a good olive oil) for this. Participants also have made good dressings with 3:1 or 1:1 oil and vinegar. It depends on what you like, and how good your oil tastes. Classic French dressing is just a vinaigrette with paprika. The simple Honey French dressing in the recipe packet has equal parts oil, vinegar, and honey with some paprika and salt. The honey thickens it enough to be distinct from a vinaigrette, but it’s not so “ketchup-y” tasting as other “French” dressing recipes.

Folks made their own salad dressing and mustard concoctions at the end of class. some of them needed extra ingredients, or time to let the flavors blend. Folks, report back here with your results! I’ll re-post the recipes when they come in.

Learn to make basic condiments – ketchup, mustard, and salad dressings – with Preserving Traditions. This will be part demo, part hands-on workshop, due to the time involved (overnight soaking, etc.) andthere will be a number of varieties to sample!

Bring at least half a cup each of any type of vinegar and oil. You may also bring fresh herbs, crumbly cheese (feta, bleu, etc.) if you wish. Also bring a couple small jars if you want to take home samples.

March 14, 2pm
Pittsfield Grange
$5; free for Grange members