Aside from my chocolates I also got to collect a number of laurels for my dipping sauces, chutneys, pestos and other condiment-related things over the years. Usually I end up in the kitchen for hours every other weekend during BBQ or December Holiday season.
2015 however dismissively waved a „denied“ banner in my direction. The weather going haywire from april to september orphaned our Weber and nixed any BBQ related plans while the usual Christmas Fondue at my parent’s house was replaced with a fantastic three course dinner due to a sudden change in plans. When our usual new years eve crowd was cut by half as well, we decided to go with a racelette instead of the stock/beef fondue. I’m not complaining in any way, I did however miss my sauce-sessions, so I thought long and hard about what I could come up with to go with hot and bubbly cheese and a large variety of charcuterie.
Round 1: Bacon Jam
The first one, the Bacon Jam, was easy to think of. I found a variation of this one some years back in a fitness and health magazine of all places. Even though I’ve cooked it up for my hubby’s lunchboxes a couple of times, adjusting the recipe, I was still at a loss as to how to actually pair it with something other than a really dark bread. Cheese! Molten cheese, even better! Never thought of that before for some reason…
4 Red Onions, cut into 5mm cubes
200g Panchetta or Smoked Bacon, cut into 5mm cubes or matchsticks
1 Clove of Garlic, finely chopped
1 generous Pinch of Cinnamon
1 Star Anise
Opt: ¼ empty Vanilla Pod or a Pinch of Vanilla Salt
75ml Red Port
60ml Maple Syrup
3 Tbsp aged Balsamic Vinegar
Sea Salt, Pepper, Chilli Flakes
Opt: Worcester Sauce, Chipotle Tabasco or Pimenton to add more smokyness to the bacon
1) Place the bacon cubes in a cold pan. Turn the heat to high.
2) Let the cubes sit until they start to give off a serious sizzle, then turn the heat down to medium – you’ll need the fat you’re rendering off right now to stay in the pan. Shake the pan lightly to turn the cubes so they render and crisp up evenly.
3) Once they’re nice and crispy, take them out – leave the fat in the pan – and set them onto a paper towel to drip off.
4) Add the onions to your pan and sautée them in the bacon fat for 1-2 mins until they start to soften.
5) Add the garlic, chilli, anise, cinnamon and – if you’re using it – vanilla pod, give it a good toss and fry until the onions are caramellized and golden.
6) Deglaze the pan with the port, maple syrup and vinegar. Make sure you rub off all the goodness from the bottom of a pan with a wooden spoon. Remove the optional vanilla pod at this point.
7) Turn down the heat to low-medium and reduce the mix until it’s almost thick and syrupy.
8) Hunt down and remove the star anise, make sure it’s in one piece. If it’s not, put some serious effort into finding and removing all the pieces – biting down on a piece of it is unpleasant business. Fold in the bacon cubes.
9) Have a taste, then adjust the seasoning with pepper and chilli flakes. To tweak it more into the „smoked“ direction you could season it with Worcester Sauce, Chipotle Tabasco or some Pimenton. Be careful though, those three can be overpowering, so add the evil in small doses.
10) Reduce the mixture down to a nice and sticky jam consistency.
11) Stored it in an airtight container in the fridge, it keeps for about 2 weeks.
Round 2: Tomato & Ginger Chutney
The idea behind the second sauce was to get something fresh, slightly acidic into the mix. This is also one of the usual suspects on my table during BBQ season, it goes very well with grilled meats and veggies.
Tomato & Ginger Chutney
4 Cloves of Garlic, halved
4cm fresh Ginger, roughly chopped
400g skinned Tomatoes, canned ones work just fine here
2 Tbsp Raisins
1 Tsp dried Cape Gooseberries, very finely chopped
160ml White Balsamic Vinegar
175g Dark Muscovado or Brown Sugar
½ Tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 heaped Tbsp Tomato Puree, plus some extra to adjust seasoning
1) Blitz 200g tomatoes, ginger and garlic into a smooth puree in a blender.
2) Place the other half of the tomatoes in a heavy based pot. Add the sugar, raisins, gooseberries and a pinch of salt, give everything a stir and bring the lot to a boil.
3) Turn the heat down to low-medium and simmer the mixture for 1-1 ½ hrs, stirring every 10 mins. Be careful with this – as it thickens it may spit hot sugar at you as you attempt to stir. I had a nasty burn glowing as brightly red as the piece of tomato that came with the sugar for weeks the first time I made this.
4) Start checking the consistency after about 45 mins. The cooking time wildly varies with the tomatoes you’ve used. The chutney is ready once it slides off your spoon in sheets.
5) Stir in 1 tbsp of tomato puree once it’s reached that point. Have a taste. Carefully. It’s hotter than it seems.
6) Adjust the seasoning with more tomato puree, salt, pepper or chilli flakes.
7) Let it cool off entirely before serving.
Round 3: Griddled Pear Chutney
No way was I going to face the full force of a ginormic pile of cheese without some fruit in my hands. According to my hubby I wasn’t supposed to feed an army rather than our small group, so I had to pace myself and pick only one of the many fruity condiments that popped into my mind. Between the usual cheese-friendly fruit – apples, cranberries, cowberries, grapes and pears – I chose to go with the pears since I had some flying around in my fridge anyways. So here’s the third one, a spicy pear chutney, my personal favourite of the bunch, even though it gave me some trouble while making it.
2 Large, firm pears, peeled, cored and cut in 1/8
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Tsp Lemon Zest
60g Dark Muscovado Sugar
1 Tsp ground Cinnamon
1 Pinch of ground Allspice
¼ Tsp ground Cloves
1 Star Anise
2 Tbsp Walnut Oil
60ml Maple Syrup
2 small Red Onions, 3-4mm cubes
1 Clove of Garlic, finely chopped
2 Tsp freshly grated Ginger
2 Tbsp dried Cranberries
4 Tbsp mixed Raisins
120ml White Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tsp Chilli Flakes
1 Tsp Thyme Leaves
1 Tsp Rosemary, needles picked and finely chopped
1) Toss the pears with the lemon juice, 1 tbsp of the sugar, the cinnamon, and cloves in a large mixing bowl until the pears are evenly coated.
2) Fire up a griddle with 1 tbsp of the walnut oil on high heat.
3) Set the pears into the the pan. Brush the pears with the remaining oil. Roast them until they are marked up, caramelized and tender. This takes about 10 to 15 mins, depending on the degree of ripeness.
4) Take them out of the griddle and let them cool off a bit. Try to catch any remaining cooking liquids from the griddle in a small bowl.
5) While the pears are roasting, bring the remaining ingredients to a boil in a small pot.
6) Reduce the heat, add the remains from the griddle and simmer for 5-10 mins or until you reach a thick, syrupy texture.
7) Remove the pot from the heat and allow the mixture to cool down to room temperature. It’ll thicken a bit more during this phase. Pick out the star anise.
8) Cut the pears into 5mm slices.
9) Carefully fold the pears into the onion mixture. Move the chutney into an airtight container and leave it to set in the fridge for about a day. Here’s where the pears I had used blindsided me. They were as pretty as they were unripe. Or maybe they were of a certain type that’s actually supposed to be sour and have a… a texture of something similar to a compressed watermelon. When I packed this batch into it’s container it had the perfect texture, color and taste. When I checked the next morning, the contents of the container had doubled from what I could see. It still tasted almost the same (just a little watered down) and didn’t change its color, but the texture was far off. Not sure how to go about this I divided the mess into two pots. The first one I brought to a boil with a packet of pectine and another dose of sugar as I’ve read in some of my grandma’s notes on jams. It lost more of the spice and seasoning, and changed its texture to something dumpworthy. After I got rid of it I simply reduced down the second batch, added some more cranberries and raisins to help soak up the liquids and made some minor adjustments to the seasoning. Voila. Not buying random pears just because they look pretty in green again!
10) Add a couple more of the dried cranberries or raisins and reduce the liquids back down on medium heat the next day. Adjust the seasoning and leave to cool again before serving.
Of course even sticking to hubby’s 3-sauces-limit I made waaaay too much. The Bacon Jam ended up as breadspread again, the Tomato Chutney literally met it’s maker on a burger and the small amount of leftover Pear Chutney miraculously disappeared right out of the serving bow just before it was washed…