Let’s talk about condiments. If you’re lucky, you got any number of Vermont specialty products - sauces, spices, honey, anything maple - as part of the holiday gift giving. If you’re anything like me, you’re both happy to have a tasty treat and well aware that condiments are taking over your refrigerator, cupboards, and counter space. They might outnumber actual foodstuffs by a healthy margin. Some of them may have expired in the early 1990’s.
I’ve only occupied my current house and kitchen for a year, yet heading into the holiday season, an inventory of savory sauces (not even the jams, dessert sauces, and fancy honeys) revealed trouble ahead.
Worse, I’ve got different levels of condiment. There are the basics like hot sauces that, if not finished, are at least in rotation. Then, there are the “special occasion” condiments that I’m saving for a special occasion that will never, ever arrive. And if it did arrive, I would have already forgotten that I own truffle oils and exotic maple-Indian spice blends and catsup made from wild grapes.
Use your condiments in 2014.
Even better, use your condiments on some winter farmers’ market fare - combining the solid base of winter-available crops and the flavor of ingredients mixed and preserved during peak harvest times. A breakfast hash of mixed root vegetables provides a great base for hot sauces. Local eggs and salsa would be a great addition. Creamy potato soup needs a swirl of infused olive oil. Curry made with local chicken on rice or some rich, braised beef would both go well with chutney. Sausages are an obvious pairing for specialty mustards. Local cheese can get a dollop of pesto or a drizzle of honey. And of course we have artisan breads that go well with almost anything - jams, jellies, apple butter, nut butters, honey, maple butter, pumpkin butter, pesto, olive tapenade . . .
Vermont has many great specialty products that can add a new flavor to basic foods without any real effort on your part. Once you’ve checked your cupboards for what’s available (or stocked up at one of our featured Food Markets) take a trip to a winter time farmers’ market to find ingredients for an everyday sort of gourmet meal. And you’ll have a much more flavorful start to the new year.