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How do I end up with so many jars of condiments and jams?! Easy. Some are called for in recipes, so I buy a jar. Sometimes I see an interesting new condiment and buy a jar. Then there’s the occasional party food, another jar. I suspect you feel as bad as I do when I have to throw out a nearly full jar of something exotic that’s been lurking in the back of the fridge for two years. Ick.

Now, as a “spa cook for one,” I have a whole new outlook on what I can do with fun condiments. Condiments are defined as “relish, vinegar, or spice, used to flavor or complement food.” At its root, the heart of the word is “to season.” These products are a great way to add a garnish, a flavor, or even the whole flavor of a dish. I follow my spa principle of “food should be pretty” when buying condiments and jams. The jar should be pretty. Even better, the label should have history, be imported or have strong local connections. It should not say Kraft.

Here’s a few examples from the jars in the fridge tonight:

Piquillo pepper and artichoke bruschetta, by Cucina & Amore: This bright orange, tasty topping is great by itself on rustic toast. Tonight I added it to a creamy potato-kale soup to add a bite of flavor. It will be great as a base on toast for a poached egg for breakfast. One caution about bruschetta: these can vary greatly in calories per serving, so read the label. Look for something in the 50 calorie or less range so that flavor doesn’t literally outweigh your good health goals.

Blackcurrant Dijon Mustard (Moutarde au cassis de Dijon), by Edmond Fallot. This a  beautiful purple-pink stoneground mustard that adds class to chicken sausages. I haven’t strayed too far from that, but could see applications with seafood as well.

Dundee Apricot Preserve, by James Keiller & Son. The Keiller preserves and marmalades are from the UK and are traditional on toast for tea. These are well-made preserves with lots of fruit. I mix them into pork dishes as a sauce.

Meyer Lemon Pear Marmalade, by Earth & Vine Provisions. This tangy marmalade is from Loomis, California, between San Francisco and Reno. I love the pairing of lemon and pear. Since jams and marmalade are basically fruit and sugar, you can use any jam or preserve to add fruit and sweetness to any dish: from sauces to salad dressings to sorbet! I used this one to make my crowd-pleasing lemon sorbet. I added lemon zest and some lemon juice, with a low amount of sugar (3/4 cup in 1 qt of mix). The resulting sorbet was fabulous!!

Kir Royale Jam, by Stonewall Kitchen. The Kir Royale Jam was the basis for my first sorbet, where I used the black currants and sugar of the jam as the flavor. This intensely dark jam comes from Maine, by way of T.J. Maxx. Yep, T.J. Maxx, where condiments go before they die! Just check the dates and the labels. Don’t be afraid to try the unusual foods that show up at your favorite “got it all bargain store.” Plus, you won’t have to pay the $5.99 and up prices at your local market.

Sylt Lingon, Lingonberry preserves, an Ikea Food. Ikea! This is another great place to get quality condiments and jam for not much. Lingonberries are tart and a pretty ruby red. I add a tablespoon to my breakfast oatmeal, adding sweetness and color. They are great on goat cheese with toast or crackers. I suspect they will make the base for my next adventure in sorbet.

Confiture de Cerises noires, from France. This is a great and simple black cherry “confit.” The ingredient list is short: cherries, sugar, lemon juice and pectin. Period. Like the confiture I enjoyed in France, this has whole fruits and a fairly runny liquid. Use it as a lovely topping with cheese. This one is so special (and expensive for the size) that I’m probably going to keep it as a star, rather than a supporting actor in dishes.

Artichoke Antipasto, by Trader Giotto’s. It looks pretty good. It jumped into my basket recently at Trader Joe’s. That happens a lot at Trader Joe’s! I’m keeping this one closed till I finish off a couple of others. I’m not sure why it’s it the fridge right now! I see possibilities in a tart or tartine, possibly a pasta dish.

So take a look in the back corners of your fridge and see what you have! Toss out a few and try the rest in new ways. If it’s pretty and colorful, it should find a home on your plate.

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