Your burger will thank you for these homemade toppings
A Good Appetite: Mustard, ketchup and pickles from your own kitchen put the supermarket varieties to shame.
The New York Times
I'm no slouch when it comes to DIY-ing it. I confit my own tomatoes every August. I make ricotta, batch up habanero sauce, simmer jams and marmalades and put up homemade maraschino cherries. Once I even churned butter, although that was really an accident involving overbeaten whipped cream.
So why I haven't been making my own mustard, ketchup and pickles is a bit of a mystery. Especially since, as anyone who has tried to cram something into my refrigerator will attest, I'm obsessed with condiments.
This summer I am making up for the lapse. A good thing, since homemade mustard, ketchup and pickles — that archetypal burger-topping trio — are not only better and fresher than their supermarket counterparts, but they are stupendously easy, too. They last for weeks in the fridge and you don't need special preservation techniques. Just stick the condiments in jars and try not to forget about them, sitting behind the artisanal kimchi.
The quality of your ingredients counts for a lot here. Don't bother making ketchup until you can get luscious, ripe tomatoes. I used grape tomatoes, but feel free to use plum tomatoes instead. You want a meaty tomato for this, so save delicate heirlooms for salads.
Many ketchup recipes call for loads of spices, but I kept mine simple, using just a little black pepper and Worcestershire sauce for complexity. I was looking for something that comes close to that inimitable flavor of classic Heinz, without the high-fructose corn syrup.
I went in the opposite direction with the pickles, spicing up classic, gently sweet bread-and-butter slices with allspice and coriander. Generally, the smaller the cucumbers, the more crisp the pickles will be. I used very small Kirby cucumbers, and a month later mine still crunch with each bite.
Lastly, for the mustard, I combined yellow and brown seeds for a medium-aggressive kick. Yellow (also called white) mustard seeds have a milder flavor than the darker black and brown varieties, so combining varieties balances the heat. But you could use all of one variety if you prefer.
One trick to making mustard is to use cold water to soak the seeds, as opposed to using hot water or simmering them. The seeds lose pungency when heated, as they also do when they are ground and exposed to air. So I prefer using whole seeds and grinding them myself after a good soaking in wine and water to soften them.
After puréeing, taste your mustard. Honey, sweet shallots and syrupy vinegars, like balsamic, will take down the sharpness (salt helps, too) while horseradish, garlic, pepper, chiles and such will augment it. As your mustard sits for a few days, its character will mellow.
Then light the grill or heat up your grill pan and make yourself a nice, fat burger. The homemade condiments in your fridge will beg for it.
Time: 10 minutes plus about 2 days' standing
Yield: 1 and ½ cups
¼ cup brown mustard seeds
¼ cup yellow mustard seeds
½ cup white wine
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Place mustard seeds in a medium-size bowl. Stir in ½ cup cold water and the wine. Cover and let stand overnight.
2. Purée mustard with salt until you reach the desired consistency. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for 24 hours before using.
Variation: After puréeing, flavor the mustard by adding sweet vinegar, black pepper, chopped garlic, herbs, honey, horseradish or chopped shallot.
Time: 40 minutes
Yield: About 2 cups
4 pints ripe grape tomatoes, cut in half
2 cups red wine vinegar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
¾ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
In a wide skillet, simmer tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper until a thick mixture forms and liquid evaporates, 20 to 25 minutes. Purée until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Stir in Worcestershire. Chill completely.
Time: About 50 minutes plus 2 hours' refrigeration
Yield: About 1 quart
1 pound Kirby cucumbers
2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 large sprigs fresh dill
¼ cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon allspice berries
1. Trim ends from cucumbers and slice into ¼-inch-thick rounds. In a colander set over a plate, toss them with salt. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 2 hours. Drain and transfer cucumbers and dill to a bowl.
2. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, vinegar, coriander, peppercorns and allspice. Bring to a boil and cook until sugar dissolves. Pour hot liquid over cucumbers and toss well. Let stand, tossing every 10 minutes, for 30 minutes. Transfer to an airtight jar and refrigerate; pickles keep for about a month.