A condiment is defined as a spice, sauce, or other preparation added to a food product to give it flavour, to enhance its existing flavour, or to complement the dish. The word condiment originates from the Latin condimentum, which means spice, seasoning or sauce, and has its root in the verb condere which means to preserve, pickle or season.

Condiments are available in many forms and may be used at various stages of cooking and product preparation. They may be applied during the meal, or prior to serving a meal. They may also be used during the cooking process to add flavour or texture to the dish. Condiments include seasonings such as herbs, various spices, salt and pepper.

Achar

Green mangoes with their immature soft seeds are suitable for achar or oil pickles. Achar is a very popular pickle in South Africa; it is eaten with maize, porridge or bread as a meat substitute and serves as an aromatic flavouring with other foods. The high oil content gives achar a high nutritional value. Cured green mango slices are drained, mixed with spices and oil, stored in suitable containers and sealed. Mangoes with a high acid content of 5 to 6% have been found to produce the best quality achar.

Chutney

This sweet, tangy condiment is served with curries, hot and cold meats and savouries. Peach chutney may be prepared from either green or ripe peaches with other fruit or vegetables, such as onions and green peppers, to which sugar, vinegar and various spices and thickening agents are added. It is stored in glass bottles and has a shelf life of several months if ambient temperatures are cool. Click here for a chutney recipe in the Farm Fare section.

Pickles

Pickles generally fall into two categories, namely clear pickles and thick, sauce pickles such as piccalilli. Pickled vegetables are preserved by the addition of acid, salt and sugar. There is a wide variety of sweet pickles available that vary according to the different type of vegetables used, the degree to which the vegetables are softened by cooking, and the type of sauce. The texture of the vegetables ranges from crisp to soft. Common vegetables used in pickles include cauliflower, carrots, celery, tomatoes, cucumber and onion while spices used to pickle vegetables include salt, turmeric, mustard, ginger, garlic and red chillies.

Salsa

Bell peppers can be preserved in the form of salsa, a spicy sauce usually served with meat and Mexican food. It is best served fresh but can be frozen for later use. However, frozen salsa does not have the same consistency as the fresh product. To make salsa, bell peppers are chopped and combined with tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices such as fresh parsley, basil or oregano.

Honey

Honey is used for flavouring and as a sweetener in many foods and beverages and there are different types of honey:

  • Raw honey is honey as it exists in the beehive, and is obtained by extraction, settling or straining. It will contain some pollen and beeswax. No heat is applied.  
  • Strained honey is produced by passing it through a mesh, which removes particles without removing pollen, minerals or enzymes.
  • Filtered honey has been processed to the point where most of the fine particles, pollen grains and other suspended materials have been removed.

The colour, flavour and aroma of honey differs according to the source of nectar used by the bees – colour may vary from nearly colourless to dark brown, flavour may be extremely mild to distinctively bold, and the aroma of the honey can be mildly reminiscent of the flower from which the nectar was obtained.

Some of the more common floral food sources of bees include:

  • Alfalfa, a legume that blooms throughout the summer. It produces an excellent table honey which is white or light amber in colour with a fine flavour.
  • Avocado flowers produce a dark coloured honey with a rich, buttery taste. It is ideal for dressing and sauces.
  • Blueberry flowers produce honey that is light amber to amber, with a full flavour. Blueberry honey is excellent in sauces and baked goods.
  • Buckwheat grows in cool, moist climates. It blooms early and produces a dark brown honey with a strong, distinctive flavour. Buckwheat honey has excellent applications in BBQ sauces and baked goods.
  • Clover honey, the most common table honey, varies in colour from water-white to an extra light amber. It has a mild and delicate flavour.
  • Eucalyptus honey shows great variety in colour and flavour but is generally boldly flavoured with a slightly medicinal aftertaste. It is good in baked goods, sauces and dressings.

The manual on the Processing of Condiments and Seasonings contains complete information on the products discussed above as well as many other processing methods and products. The manual is available from the ARC – Institute for Agricultural Engineering. Contact Elmarie Stoltz on 012 842 4017 or stoltze@arc.agric.za.
Theresa Siebert, ARC, Institute for Agricultural Engineering