Thursday, November 11, 2010

Homemade Condiments: Preparation for the Dark Days Ahead

If you are a CSA member, there are a few things that I would like you to know about your farmers.

1. They are busy.
2. They love ugly vegetables, leftovers, and the leavings that get pulled out of the field at season's end.
3. They appreciate you a lot.

A bit of what we shared with our members this season. Thank you
CSA members of the world.

At least those things are true of me and my husband.

I think that most people understand that growing vegetables is a lot of hard labor. It is, of course, labor that we love or we wouldn't be doing it, but it cuts into our time for doing other stuff. Like eating and sleeping. And canning.

Canning is what I am actually getting at here. I make some preserves to sell at the market, but I don't have time to can much to put on my shelves during the growing season. Most of our produce goes to the shares, the market, or our dinner, and most of my energy goes to growing said produce, working my day job (yes, I still have one), and loving our one year old daughter.

So, when fall comes along and other people are sitting back admiring their well stocked pantries, I start to fill mine. The CSA season is over, the fields are getting cleaned out, and I have time to can stuff (and love my daughter) almost to my heart's content.

Cold weather goodies we just cleaned out of the garden: parsley, green tomatoes,
and scallions. I'll assume you knew that we didn't grow the ginger.

This year I am particularly excited to get canning because I am going to be participating in Urban Hennery's Dark Days Challenge, which is a challenge to eat local through the winter months (December 1st through April 15th) when finding food produced in your community can be especially tricky. I want to be able to rely on items that I have prepared ahead of time for some of this challenge.

To that end, I have been making condiments.  Condiments have been my favorite thing to can since I started canning. They allow for creativity in flavor combinations, unlike tomato and apple sauces - which we eat but aren't exciting to make, and we eat them - unlike jams and jelly which sometimes sit on the shelf indefinitely. I make a mean crabapple ketchup that my husband and I love on meatloaf (and hotdogs - it's cool if they're local hotdogs from Vollwerth's, right?) and I have been trying to perfect a chokecherry barbecue sauce that I use on chicken for a few years now, but this year I have been branching out.

From smallest to largest: ginger scallion sauce, green tomato relish, chimichurri.

My green tomato relish recipe is still under construction, so I'm not going to post it right now. I mentioned it simply because I made a whole lot of it (along with salsa verde and pickled tomatillos) so you can expect it to turn up frequently during the coming dark days.

My green tomato relish recipe has been posted and can be found here.

I am going to share my ginger scallion sauce and chimichurri recipes though. They're both pretty easy, especially if you employ a food processor, and they are extremely useful condiments worthy of having on hand. Happily, the main ingredient of each also happened to be lingering in the fields when we cleaned things up for the season and survived my neglect while I dealt with the more perishable items.  I'll start with the simplest one first.

Ginger Scallion Sauce

My brother in law introduced me to ginger scallion sauce earlier this summer. He discovered it via Francis Lam's writings on It only has four ingredients so I haven't changed it much from the way Mr. Lam presented it, but I'm still going share how I do it because that is what the internet is for. I do make it with a lot less oil than Francis Lam's version. I just like it better that way.

When I made the batch pictured above my coat was hanging on a hook in the kitchen near where I combined the oil with the ginger and scallions. It has smelled like a Chinese restaurant ever since. To me this is a seriously good thing.

The coat, not yet ginger scallion scented, out and about on Halloween.
This quantity of ingredients makes about two cups of sauce. It is best with rice, vegetables, eggs and fish.

  • 12 ounces scallions, white and green sections
  • 4 ounces fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  1. Chop the scallions and ginger very finely, until they have formed a paste. The only practical way to do this is with a food processor.
  2. In the meantime, heat the peanut oil until it is smoking hot.
  3. Transfer the ginger and scallions into a high sided, heat proof pot. The pot must be large enough that the hot oil can safely be added to the vegetables in the pot. Allow for boiling oil and splattering.
  4. Stir the salt into the ginger and scallions.
  5. When the oil is smoking hot, pour it in a steady stream over the vegetables, stirring as you do so. Continue stirring for a moment to incorporate all of the oil.
  6. Cover and store in the refrigerator. 

I just sort of stumbled upon chimichurri. It's origins are in Argentina, someplace I have never been and have no particular connection to. I'm not sure where I first read about it. I do know that when I ran across it I thought the flavor combination sounded heavenly. It is the kind of recipe that everyone makes their own way, so I read as many versions as I could, tried a few out, then combined the best of everything I had found to my liking. Feel free to tweak it as you see fit.

These quantities make a generous quart. It is fine to halve or quarter the recipe. This is great with red meats and sausages or with vegetables. Keep in mind that all of the listed measurements of minced or chopped things are after mincing. I do all of the chopping for this recipe with the food processor.

  • 2 cups finely minced parsley
  • 1/2 cup dried oregano
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, or to taste, minced
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 20 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 4 teaspoons whole cumin, lightly crushed with a rolling pin, mortar and pestle, or something similar
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  1. Combine all of the ingredients.
  2. Stir well to make sure that everything is well mixed.
  3. Cover and refrigerate. This is really best once it has sat for at least 24 hours.
Refrigerated, both of these keep for at least a few months, certainly they keep as long as we can keep from eating them all up.


  1. I wonder if you have a really good ketchup recipe. A local farm cans some of their own where I live. It has cinnamon and cloves. It's the consistency of relish. It's to die for. I keep promising my husband I'll try to make it.

    I love your blog, by the way.

  2. Thanks!

    That sounds like good ketchup. The green tomato relish I've been working on is a lot like that but I don't have a ketchup recipe using ripe tomatoes. When I have red tomatoes to can I make sauce, we go through a ton of tomato sauce in the winter, and I make my ketchup out of other, less precious, things like crabapples. I'd look through the canning books at your library. I'll bet you'll find a recipe similar to what you're looking for. Stocking Up by Carol Hupping is a great canning resource and might have what you are after.


  3. Thanks for the feedback. Maybe next summer when we have tomatoes again.

  4. I love the ginger scallion sauce. it's so versatile and so delicious!

  5. I love both these sauces because they are so versatile. The scallion-ginger sauce is also very good with chicken and rice! Chimichurri goes so well with any meat but I also use it as a "dip" with empanadas!

  6. It's true they are both super versatile. I made an omelet this morning with cheese and chimichurri as the filling. So simple and so nice to have instant flavor in my fridge.

  7. You can make tuscan salsa verde all year round! To get those vivid're doing everything wonderfully!