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DIY: Exploring New Condiment Horizons

By Bjorn Bergman | Photos By Bjorn Bergman 0

Every year, I find myself falling in cooking ruts. Whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner, I always tend to go back to my tried and true recipes that get old and worn out. What I really enjoy is helping myself get out of those ruts through recipe exploration. I try new recipes from cookbooks and blogs and use them as a framework to make new and tasty creations.

This spring and early summer, I once again found myself in a cooking rut, but this time it was with grilling. Every time I fired up the grill, I found myself turning to my standbys—burgers and brats with ketchup, mustard and pickles. After my fair share of the same-old-same-old this year, I vowed to change up my repertoire.

I thought it would be logical to start with something on the periphery of grilled items: the condiments. Why do I always stick to adding the same old ketchup, mustard, and pickles to grilled items? Why not try something new and unique like homemade pickles or BBQ sauce, fresh pesto or chutney, or a marinade for a cut of meat? There are so many options out there, all I needed to do is start exploring recipes and experimenting in the kitchen. 

After trying recipe after recipe for grilling condiments, I discovered three general guidelines that helped me (and perhaps will help you) get out of a rut when it comes to adding extras to your grilled foods.

1.)    Make it yourself. Rather than picking up mustard or barbeque sauce from the grocery store, why not go on a cooking adventure and make the condiments yourself? By making them on your own at home, you can add extra ingredients like roasted garlic, wine, maple syrup, or bourbon to your sauce making it something truly new and unique. There’s also the bonus of knowing exactly what went into your condiments, avoiding unpronounceable or unnecessary ingredients and preservatives. For a little inspiration, check out my tried and true recipes for Dill Cucumber Refrigerator Pickles and Maple Bourbon Chipotle BBQ Sauce (yep, you read that right!).

2.)    Go beyond ketchup, mustard, and pickles. Sometimes the condiment staples get old. Instead of grabbing the standbys, why not make some garden fresh pesto to crown your burger or brat, or how about fresh chutney to accompany your steak? Changing the condiments you use on your favorite grilled items can bring a new and refreshing shine to your recipe reserve. Check out this recipe for delicious Carrot Pesto as a new topping idea for burgers, brats and hot dogs.

3.)    Marinate. Marinating involves the soaking of foods in liquids, usually composed of acids, oils and spices, prior to cooking. The process results in the partial breakdown of the tissue in the food, typically resulting in a juicier end product. I know it is hard to believe, but prior to this spring, I had little experience with marinating meat or veggies before I cooked or grilled them. This all changed when I stumbled upon a recipe for maple teriyaki pork tenderloin. The recipe called for soaking the loin in maple syrup and tamari (both ingredients I absolutely adore). From that cooking and eating experience, I began traveling down a path of marinating experimentation that has yielded delightful results. Now, I rarely think about preparing any type of meat or veggie without a marinade. Here is one of my favorite creations that evolved from that original recipe for maple teriyaki pork tenderloin: Maple Chipotle Skirt or Flank Steak.

With all of these fresh ideas for grilling condiments, comes the biggest reward of all: sharing homemade grilling delights with friends and family. Here’s to changing up your summer grilling routine and sharing the spoils. Cheers and enjoy!

Bjorn Bergman is passionate about local and sustainably produced food. He has volunteered and worked in Wisconsin's organic and local food movement for the past 6 years. Bjorn spends his days dreaming about ways to cook with ramps and cheese (his two favorite foods), working as the Promotions and Educational Coordinator at the Viroqua Food Co-op, riding his bike way too much, and getting his hands dirty in his backyard garden. He has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science Biology from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse and lives in Viroqua.

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