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PamMehnert

Hi, I'm Pam Mehnert

As Outpost's general manager, Pam's work keeps her at the office, in meetings, or in front of her computer more than a simple 40 hours each week. However, her passion as a foodie has driven her to take on this challenge for the culinary experience of...
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Pam Mehnert

Week 39 - An Inconvenient Pantry (Part 2: Condiment Whore)

A Year of Inconvenience
For one year, I'm making everything from scratch and forgoing convenience foods. Join me on my journey! By Pam Mehnert on January 19, 2011

I never realized how “over-the-top” our pantry was with condiments, seasonings, chutneys, salts, vinegars, and sauces until a friend pointed it out a few years ago by taking a picture of our refrigerator door and posting it on Facebook. “You two are condiment whores,” she exclaimed! It took this posting for my blog to realize how right she really was.

 

Now some of you might be thinking if I’m cooking everything from scratch, why the heck aren’t I making my own condiments too? I had to ask some of the same questions of myself when I started this project, like is a condiment a “food” or is it a “seasoning?” Am I going to make my own mayonnaise and barbeque sauce and ketchup? Can you even make your own mustard? What about vinegars? Do I have to grow my own herbs? Wait a minute – this isn’t Amish in the City – and I’m not going to take this to an extreme (any more extreme than it already is).

 

So I decided condiments are okay to use and I won’t consider them convenience foods. That doesn’t mean I won’t try to make barbeque sauce or mustard, but I won’t limit myself from using them. Out of curiosity I did Google “how to make your own vinegar” and while the Vinegar Man scares me a little (go ahead and look), I must admit it doesn’t seem worth the time and what I’m guessing is a not too pleasant odor.

 

Anyways, it’s time to tour my condiment pantry, the savory, the spicy and the unconventional. This is just a mere sampling, my friends.

 

 

Item

Why I Keep It Stocked

Tamari (or soy sauce)

Not just for Asian inspired dishes. I use this to season fajitas, greens, soups, and in marinades for meats

White Balsamic Vinegar

A lighter alternative to regular balsamic, which can sometimes overpower a dish. Use in salad dressing or to brighten up a sauce.

Bavarian Beer Vinegar

Honestly, I haven’t tried this one yet but wow is it interesting. I think it would go well in umm, German inspired dishes like sauerbraten.

Chipotle Tabasco Sauce

This is the hero in my pantry. Adds a little spice as well as smokiness. Love to use in chili as a seasoning, as well as tacos, fajitas, BBQ sauce, and my version of Spanish rice.

Miso Paste

Not only an ingredient in miso soup, I use as a base for a sauce (like beef stroganoff) or I add to stock for gravy, in place of bouillon cubes.

Anchovy Paste

The secret ingredient in my balsamic dressing, but I also like to add just a bit to greens – sautéed with shallots and a splash of white wine.

Smoked Spanish Paprika

I never knew there was another paprika besides sweet or hot. The flavor is amazing and it’s one of the main ingredients in my pork carnita seasoning.

Ancho Chili Powder

Another great discovery I made this year  to kick up my homemade chili and pork carnitas. Also good in tacos or just adding just a touch to guacamole and homemade salsa.

Cardamom Pods and Powder

India’s answer to one of the best seasonings for savory or sweet goods. I use the powder along with cinnamon in my granola. The pods can be toasted with other Indian spices, then ground to make your own curry or masala.

 

I found this recipe online for making mustard. I have more than 10 different kinds of mustard in my refrigerator right now, and got three tubes of my favorite German mustard for Christmas. So I don’t really have any need to make mustard. However this sounds both easy and delicious so I’m going to try it this week.

 

Homemade Mustard

3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds

2 ½ tablespoons brown mustard seeds

1/3 cup GOOD white wine (the kind you would drink, not just cook with)

1/3 cup white wine vinegar

1 shallot, minced (you need about 2 tablespoons)

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon white pepper

A pinch of allspice

 

Using a glass or ceramic bowl (not stainless) combine all the ingredients and refrigerate overnight, covered. The next day, transfer your mixture to a blender and blend until you reach the thickness you like in mustard. Store your mustard in a glass container, the recipe I read said it should last about 2 weeks.

 

Back to my New Year’s commitment to try something new each week, this week I made croutons with some of my stale bread. I really have been missing croutons since I eat salads pretty often and used to love adding them when I purchased from the salad bar at my store. The recipe I found was a little over the top oily, so I scaled it down a bit and added a few of my own spices. Problem with homemade croutons is you really need to eat them right away or they will turn soft when stored in a container. At least that was my problem with them. If you know of a solution, let me know. I had to “crisp” them up in the toaster oven each time I wanted to use them, a rather inconvenient step I might add.

 

Croutons

4 cups bread, cubed

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon dried thyme

 

Melt the butter and olive oil together in a large pan. Add your bread cubes and stir to coat well. Keep stirring the cubes of bread until they are nice and golden brown. Take one out of the pan and let cool a bit. Is it crunchy? If it is, time to add all of your seasonings and mix well. Set croutons on paper towels to cool if they seem a little greasy.

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