Condiments and marinades are a must-have in my pantry. I admit, my fridge is about seventy percent full of different types of relishes, chutneys, mayos and mustards. Making your own condiments and marinades is quite simple and you can produce large batches that will store for years. So, with summer already in full swing and produce at its prime, head down to your local farmers market and pick up your favorite fruits or veggies and start bottling!

Keeping It Natural

Chemical additives and preservatives are found in most store-bought condiments and marinades; try to avoid these chemicals because they significantly affect flavour and are unhealthy. There are natural food preservatives (also called traditional preservatives) that are commonly found in a pantry; they are salt, sugar and vinegar.

Salt has been used as a natural food preservative since ancient times. Adding salt as a preservative works to dehydrate microbes through the process of osmosis and it inhibits the growth of bacteria that causes food to spoil. It also protects food from yeasts and molds.

Sugar sweetens the condiment and works as a preservative by drawing out water from bacteria and other microorganisms; which either kills the bacteria or inhibits their growth. By using sugar, your food can be stored either in sugar syrup or in a crystallized form.

Vinegar is the most commonly used preservative and the acetic acid found in vinegar kills microbes and prevents food spoilage. There are many different types of vinegar, so use the flavour you prefer best or suits the recipe.

The Balance

The most successful condiments and marinades are those that are well-balanced. A balanced recipe should be equally sweet, sour, salty, spicy and bitter. If you feel you have gone too far in one flavour profile, just add opposing flavours to bring the balance back.

If your condiment or marinade:

  • is too bland, add salt or some heat
  • is too salty, add sour
  • is too spicy, add some sweetness
  • is too sweet, add some sour or heat
  • is too sour, add sweetness
  • is too strong, try just a touch of sweetness or water
  • needs a kick, add acid or fresh herbs (lemon usually does the trick)

Here is my favourite marinade that works well with fish, meat and vegetables:

Sweet, Salty, Sour Marinade
Yield: 1 cup

6 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup fish sauce
3 tbsp low sodium natural soy sauce
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 red Thai bird chili chopped

Combine lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar in a medium bowl. Stir in cilantro, garlic, ginger and chilies. Add meat, fish or vegetables. Toss, cover and chill for at least 3 hours (preferably overnight).
AndreaNicholsonChef Andrea Nicholson is the owner of Killer Condiments and was a contestant on season one of Top Chef Canada. Supporting sustainability purveyors, Canadian farmers, and Ocean Wise is the central tenet behind her cuisine.