The six best, just-starting-out, hard-to-find, locally-made, healthy and delicious condiments you really, really want to try

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1)  Tango Chimchurri

In Argentina, a tangy garlicky parsley vinaigrette sauce called chimchurri is found on every dining table, a dipping sauce for grilled meat and vegetables. Mariana Leimontas took her father’s recipe and brought it to her adopted Minnesota where it was a hit with friends, including Suzie Holzinger. The two decided to bring it to market under the name Tango Chimchurri to sell, at first, at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market.

 “We use fresh ingredients,” said Leimontas. “We use no lemon, no mint, no onion, no cilantro. We use red wine vinegar and locally sourced sunflower oil instead of olive oil for the flavor.” She recommends using the sauce when sautéing vegetables, as a marinade for roasted potatoes, in scrambled eggs, on sandwiches and more.

 If you want to pick up a jar of Tango Chimchurri, you can find it (later this spring) at the Minneapolis Farmers Market or right now at the Wedge Co-op and at Oxendale’s supermarket in East Nokomis near 50th St. and 28th Ave. Tango was previously featured in the Daily Planet. If you want to read more just click here.

 2) Trrrific Pickles

Robin Doroshow learned to make her Jewish style pickles at her grandmother Golda’s knee, using a process called lacto-fermentation. Instead of vinegar, the cucumbers are pickled in a brine solution. The result is a pickle that’s not vinegar sour, but crunchy with a little bit of satisfying umami. And, it’s full of probiotic goodness. She named her product Trrrific Pickles (initials of her husband and kids are part of the ‘trrr’) and worked to bring it to market.

 Because her cucumbers aren’t pasteurized, the MN Department of Agriculture was reluctant to allow her to sell them commercially. (They have no such reluctance with it comes to cabbage processed in the same way.) She joined forces with a food scientist friend to prove that the pickles were safe, as they have been on the tables of Eastern European Jews for centuries. They finally agreed, giving her a retail food license.

 Doroshow gets most of her cucumbers from local Hmong farmers. “It tried cukes from elsewhere, but these were the best,” she said. “I make them in season and when the cucumbers run out, I don’t make them anymore,” While the cukes won’t be back until summer, Trrific! Products’ pickled asparagus is still available. Look for them at the Wedge and Seward Co-ops. This summer, look for a return of her cucumber pickles at your local Byerly’s, Lunds and other locations in your choice of mild or spicy.

 3) Lucy’s Hot Sauce

East African style hot sauce is probably not what you think. It’s no palate burning pepper sauce. Instead, Lucy’s Hot sauce is a deep red, thick, earthy, condiment with a kick and just a little back of the tongue burn, suitable for a heat-adverse Minnesotans. The sauce’s creator, Ambo Bati, says that back in Africa, sauces like these are used for their health benefits. They’re loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that thought to lower blood pressure, boost immunity, aid digestion and to treat cold symptoms.

 “I looked at different spices and saw what would be good for the body,” he said. “But, I also wanted to focus on flavor.” He succeeded. It’s easily the best African hot sauce I’ve ever had, and I’ve tried plenty. According to Bati, last year his sauce came in 2nd in a Texas hot sauce contest.

 One of the hot sauce’s main ingredients is hot paprika, imported from East Africa, with salt and sugar, cardamom, garlic, ginger and ‘black seed’ (aka; black cumin or black caraway) as spice for excellent aroma. Each 8 oz. squeeze bottle has a hand written date of manufacture and batch code number (my bottle says batch 201502.)  And despite the warning to refrigerate after opening, I leave mine on the table for easy access with no ill effects. (I live dangerously.) Currently, Lucy’s Hot Sauce is available only in African grocery stores like Shabelle (Minneapolis) and Star Foods (St. Paul). In the future, he hopes to expand his outlets but for now, it’s worth a trip to find a bottle.

 4) Kiss My Cabbage

Sauerkraut from a supermarket can or jar can be boring. After sour and crunchy, there’s not much more it can offer. But, Adrienne Logdon makes sauerkraut with flavor – actually three flavors; plain, lemon/garlic/dill and caraway/juniper with more on the way. Kiss My Cabbage fresh kraut begins with cabbages, most of which Logdon grows on her organic farm. She washes and shreds the cabbage then mixes it with sea salt, letting it ferment for three to six weeks in a stone crock.

 The result is some of the best sauerkraut available, something suitable for more than just putting on a hot dog. Plus, because it’s fermented (the Dept. of Agriculture didn’t have any problem with this method used on cabbage as they did with the cukes) it’s probiotic. Logsdon also makes two types of kimchi. You can find all of Kiss My Cabbage products at many farmers markets from Mill City to Chisago City. If you can’t wait until summer, check out the Bryn Mawr Market or Golden Fig Fine Foods in St. Paul.

 5) You Betcha! Kimchi

It wasn’t so much a love of kimchi that got Iman and Joe Meflah into the kitchens at City Food Studio in South Minneapolis. The dream of these to city folks was to be farmers. “We took a class (in farming) in 2013 and were asking ourselves what we would make our farm about,” says Iman. “I had been making kimchi for personal use and I turned Joe onto it. He said, ‘Why don’t we have a farm and grow vegetables for kimchi?’ The farm idea turned into You Betcha Kimchi, ‘A Minnesota twist on the Korean classic.’

 Last year, most of their vegetables were grown at their rented half-acre farm plot near Ramsey. This coming growing season, they’re adding two Seward neighborhood plots for another half-acre of land. They insist that everything for their ‘Korean style sauerkraut’ (cabbage, garlic, chili peppers, onions, ginger) is grown and produced in Minnesota. During the season, the two make 50 gallons at a time every two weeks. “It’s a living product,” she says. “You have to refrigerate it.” And, it’s not just to accompany Korean food, says Iman. Use it in fish tacos or in a grilled ‘kimcheese’ sandwich, maybe.

 You Betcha! Kimchi is currently available in three flavors from Minnesota Nice (no chilies), A Bit Nippy (medium) and Uffda! (spicy!). Right now you can buy it only on Tuesday and Saturday from 9:00 am until 1:00 pm at City Food Studio (3722 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis), but they hope to expand into other retail outlets by summer.

 6) Gardip

 Matt Joyce, armed with a brand new degree in finance from Boston College, came home to Minnesota hoping to start his own business. He was no cook, but had grown up with his family’s homemade toum, a Lebanese garlic dip. “We ate it like ketchup when we were kids. We put it on everything. Our friends had no idea what it was, but they loved it, too.”

 Joyce saw toum as the perfect business opportunity. “It’s an under the radar niche Mediterranean food that could be brought mainstream,” he said, and spent the next four years perfecting his Gardip recipe. It sound simple – garlic cloves, vegetable oil, lemon juice and salt – but creating a consistent and ready to market product was harder than it sounded. “Garlic can be a pain to work with,” he said. “You’ve got to pay attention to shelf life and have consistent emulsification. It’s got oil and water and, well, they don’t want to mix. It’s got lemon juice, but that can differ depending what country it’s grown, or even the tree type.”

 Gardip is light and fluffy with a mild garlic bite, great as a sandwich spread, on vegetables (cooked or raw), eggs, meat or even as a cracker spread. Kept refrigerated, it can keep for up to six weeks.

 Right now, Gardip is available only at Buon Giorno , an Italian specialty grocery in Lilydale, but Joyce says he’s hoping to go national, maybe soon. He’s opened a Gardip commercial kitchen on Marshall Ave. in St. Paul, and is in talks with Whole Foods, Kowalski’s, Jubilee, Cub, Lunds and Byerly’s. Next on his list is Target’s a national market. “We’ll be doing a launch in late May,” he said. “We think we can be a fridge mainstay. Toum can be the next new hummus.”

 And beyond!
Do you have a favorite locally made start up sauce, pickle or other condiment that wasn’t mentioned? Let us know here. 

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