As much as any decent fly-by-feel cook likes to shake a bit of everything into a pot and see how it tastes, it is always nice to have some go-to seasoning mixes that will lead eaters onto a particular culinary path. The thing I like about seasoning mixes is that they come already balanced, so there is no need for trying to add the right ratio of salt to spice to sweet to herb to whatever. The mix has got it sorted out, leaving all that “a bit of this, a bit of that” guesswork out of the equation.
As an everyday cook, what I’ve also come to realize is that I’ve got particular spices and, especially, spiciness that suit me, and so it’s fun, rewarding, and cost-saving to make my own seasoning mixes. For every meal I serve, I’ve got some particular mix to add for extra flavor rather than the ubiquitous salt and pepper shakers. Also, store-bought mixes often contain MSG, preservatives and so on, when all we are really after is something a little more zippy than plain old salt. Well, now it doesn’t have to be so.
Do you like tacos, curries, chili and cajun cooking? Well, there is no need to buy seasoning mixes anymore. Here’s the know-how you need for creating your own.
Forget plain old salt. And I don’t mean sea salt, Pink Himalayan salt, or Hawaiian salt. But, if you make you own, you can use sea salt (or whatever you prefer) and straight-up seasonings, like paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, cayenne or anything that seems a good idea. My general rule of thumb is that the amount of salt should match up with the cumulative amount of other seasonings. Or, you can use this recipe and go from there.
I may be expat vegan now, giving up my former life of crawfish boils and seafood po’boys, but I’m a Louisiana kid at heart. I need my Cajun seasoning, and where I live these days (Central America), it’s on me to create that flavor. Luckily, the stuff that goes into Cajun is pretty run-of-the-mill. You’ll need a good mix of peppers, white, black and a double-dose of cayenne, with an equal amount of salt (as all the peppers). There are some dried herbs, garlic and onion powder, and paprika. The trick is to experiment. You can use this recipe and go from there.
This is a bit of a cheat in that each dish — fajitas, tacos, burritos, etc .— has it’s own thing going on, but by and large, there is particular flavor that I go for when cooking Mexican food. The two big contributors are chile powder and cumin. The rest is not much different than other seasonings: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, paprika and maybe some cayenne to kick it up. Here’s a good base and expand from there.
Contrary to what I long believed, curry powder is not the result of one leaf or root, but rather a mixture of things, as well as a completely Western notion (traditionally, all of these components wouldn’t be added at once). Whatever the case, making your own curry powder is simple. Start with four ingredients: coriander, cumin, turmeric and spicy pepper. Then, it’s time to add the twists, like ginger, mustard seed, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and so on. Truth be told, there is no exact list of ingredients, which is why curry powders can taste so different. Here are some measurements to start with.
Dried Vegetable Stock
Perhaps one the most unsung elements to any good pot of stuff is the stock cube. It permeates flavor into each bite. While it seems like such a processed item, impossible to do yourself, it isn’t at all. Essentially, dried vegetable stock is just a bunch of dehydrated vegetables that are ground up and added to seasoning. Classic stock characters are onions, tomatoes, celery, carrots, garlic and herbs (particularly parsley). If you have dehydrator, this job is super-easy. If not, you’ll have to do it really slowly on the lowest oven setting. A good seasoning salt would round it out. Here’s a great recipe for raw, vegan stock powder (with tips).
I guess it’s technically not a seasoning mix, but hot sauce is more likely to be on my table than salt and pepper. I love making my own. It starts with spicy peppers (jalapeño, habanero, whatever is around), vinegar, and water. Then, I play. Usually, I like to add a couple cloves of garlic, some onion, carrots (a classic component to good hot sauces) and mustard. I’ve done it with pineapple and mango. I’ve done it with turmeric and tomato. I’ve roasted everything beforehand, done everything raw (for hotter results), as well as a mixture of both. It’s really what you like. This is a great basic hot sauce for nervous first-timers.
Like to make your own mixes, too? Well, by all means, submit the recipes to OGP or leave us a link below. Until then, eat well, my friends, and do it additive-free and as clean as possible.
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