I know that it's officially spring when I wake up on the weekends with the overwhelming desire to wander a farmer's market, stuffing my dumb little collection of tote bags with produce that I'll race to finish before it goes limp in my refrigerator. I also know it's spring when I wake up on the weekends with the gnawing realization that before I do that, I need to give the kitchen a much-needed deep cleaning after a winter of heavy baking and lots of braising.
I'll leave the general spring cleaning advice to the experts — this piece by Caroline Mullen at Food52 is a good way to start. Instead, let's turn our attention to something you may not think needs a refresh: your condiment collection.
Condiment shelves can, drop-by-errant-drop, become a sludge of spills and leaks. They may be filled with bottles and jars that are past their prime or are otherwise just not serving you well in your culinary endeavors. Let's take a little time this weekend to get them in order and toss the bad stuff, leaving room for some Saucy-approved spring condiment picks.
Take everything out of your condiment shelf (or shelves) in the refrigerator and pantry
This step is self-explanatory, but absolutely necessary. When you're ready for spring cleaning, pull everything out: that new bottle of artisan hot sauce, your weird Ziploc baggie of fast-food barbecue sauce packets (no judgement), those duplicate bottles of Kewpie mayo. Everything.
Once you've set them aside, give the refrigerator or pantry shelves where they'd been stored a thorough wipe-down with a light disinfectant.
Inspect your bottles and jars
Look through your bottles and jars. If there are any that are past their expiration date or have signs of mold or discoloration, go ahead and toss them. Grab a soft dishrag, and soak it in warm water. Then, take a minute to go over the remaining condiments' caps, where sauce has the tendency to dry and crust over.
Take a page from Marie Kondo's book
Now that your bottles and jars — and condiment shelves — are sparkling, it's time to borrow an organizational tip from Marie Kondo and really think about which of those condiments actually make you want to get in your kitchen and create things. Does that nearly empty jar of grainy mustard (that is now more yellow water than actual sauce) spark joy? If not, go ahead and throw it out.
The infused oil a friend gave you that you haven't cracked open yet because you have, as Helen Rosner described it in The New Yorker, a "paralysis of wonder?" Keep it, and make a plan to use it.
Continue picking through your condiments like this until you're left only with the bottles, jars and packets you want to keep. Step back, and bask in the glory of your refreshed collection.
Now, you may be asking yourself what you're going to do with all that extra condiment shelf space. I have a few suggestions that just scream spring:
Once the weather crawls above 55 degrees, my morning routine centers around throwing open all of my windows, pouring an unreasonably tall glass of cold brew and tossing citrus in some form on my breakfast plate. Currently, I'm partial to smothering a hearty piece of toast with Dalmatia Imports' tangerine spread. It's sweet with a pleasant acidic brightness that keeps it from being too cloying (and it also comes in a cute little pod jar with a forest green lid that's definitely Instagram-worthy).
In addition to being a stellar breakfast spread, it makes a solid addition to a white cheddar grilled cheese — maybe with pancetta, if you're feeling fancy — and as a seasonal filling for thumbprint cookies.
Yuzu kosho is a Japanese condiment made from the zest and juice of yuzu — a knobby and fragrant citrus fruit grown almost exclusively in East Asia — that's been fermented with fresh chiles and salt. The resulting paste pops with acid, brininess and heat. It's hyper-functional because it can augment the flavor of foods with a single spoonful, especially dishes that are rich or creamy.
Drop a spoonful into instant miso soup along with some chopped scallions and bok choy for an immediately-updated quick lunch. Swirl a little with some Kewpie mayonnaise, and use that as a dip for tempura shrimp and vegetables. Whisk it with tamari, and use it as a marinade.
Inglehoffer Creamy Dill Mustard with Capers
This little tub of mustard has been a game-changer for my work-from-home lunches. If you combine a spoonful with mayonnaise, it immediately transforms the flavor of chicken, egg and chickpea salads without much effort. It belongs on your subs — try it on turkey, provolone, shredded iceberg lettuce and thin-cut radishes — and slathered on fried chicken sandwiches.
It's also a perfect ingredient for upgrading your deviled eggs.
Ramp Up Vinegar
If you're not from certain parts of the U.S., you may be unfamiliar with ramps. They're wild leeks that can be grown and foraged throughout the South and along the East Coast come late March or early April. They taste like a supercharged combination of onion and garlic and can basically be used anywhere you'd use supermarket leeks or scallions — including flavored vinegars.
Ramp Up's Ramp Vinegar is tangy, sweet and a little pungent making it, as the company puts it, "a flavor miracle worker." The most obvious way to use it is in a vinaigrette, of course, but I like including a couple tablespoons in braising liquids (add it to this recipe for milk-braised pork a life-changing meal) and to finish vegetable soups. It radically alters the flavor of creamed cauliflower and creamy potato-leek soup.
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