Upscale homemade sauces make the perfect topping

05/16/2012 9:01 AM

05/16/2012 9:01 AM

It isn’t a backyard cookout without a trifecta of condiments — the elongated red, squat yellow and plump white containers. They’re intended to add zip, zing and zest but somehow, no matter where you go, they’re almost always the same. And every squirt of those ubiquitous plastic squeeze bottles offers a reminder that no matter how much effort you’ve put into building a better burger, you’ve phoned it in on the finishing touches.

If you’re the type to make your burgers from grass-fed beef and potato salad with heirloom spuds, busting out the plastic squeeze bottles for a meal like that is like decorating a pair of Jimmy Choos with those plastic thingamajigs for Crocs.

Perhaps this is the year to give the heave-ho to Heinz and its commercial compatriots and make your own condiments. In other words, become the boss of your own sauce.

And when it comes to homemade spreads and sauces, chefs are leading the charge — and we’re not just talking aioli and mayo.

Although it may seem a little early to start thinking about summer grilling, now’s the time to make condiments, especially the ones with more complexity — like ketchup and mustard — so the flavors have time to marry before you serve them.

Mustard is a great place to start because it’s simple to make and easy to tailor to taste. A basic recipe uses either mustard seeds or dried, powdered mustard soaked in liquid — water, vinegar, beer or wine — combined with other spices and seasonings.

Ketchup-making requires more time and effort, but the payoff is that you can make a sauce with more intense, complex flavors than store-bought without using highly processed ingredients, such as high-fructose corn syrup, which is commonly used to sweeten commercially made ketchups.

Of course, store-bought ketchup is so ubiquitous, some people may find the homemade version takes some getting used to. DIY ketchup tends to be less sweet, and its texture is not quite as smooth as, say, Heinz.

You also can make ketchup with canned tomato paste or tomato puree, which is a great way to play with seasonings and spices to find a flavor profile you like, before trying it with fresh tomatoes when they come into season this summer.

Of course, tomatoes aren’t the only condiment inspiration around. Mangoes are in season right now, and they can be used to make memorable condiments, too.

Whether for dipping or drizzling, seasoning or slathering, making your own condiments can turn something as simple as burgers on the grill into a memorable and personal meal. No squeeze bottles required.

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