I like making my own sauces and preserves. Flavours can be personalized, it keeps me connected to my past, and I have access to the resources as well as storage space so that I don’t need to make the same kind of preserve every season.
In my files, there’s an old hand-copied recipe for sweet and sour sauce that my mom got from somewhere. Like many foods that I prepare a lot, I routinely modify it to suit my mood, sometimes so much that it’s unrecognizable as the same thing. In the past, I have used it as a guide for large batches of plum sauce which I then canned for gifts. Most recently, I wanted a sweet and sour sauce to go with a Chinese style pork dish I was making. I happened to have a half-used jar of applesauce in the fridge that I was worried was going to go mouldy, as well as a number of other bottles and jars of things that wanted using. So I selected a few and put this together. The guiding principle is to have one central flavour, complemented with something sweet, something acidic, something salty and if possible a warm spice. The particular combination below produces a medium dark brown sauce, and not too thick, so don’t expect a neon red gloppy sauce such as you might see in some restaurants.
Makes about one cup.
|1/2 cup||Applesauce (mine was an unsweetened home-made ginger applesauce)|
|2 tablespoons||Elderflower cordial (frozen last summer)|
|1 tablespoon||Redcurrent jelly (scraping the bottom of the jar)|
|1 teaspoon||Dark orange marmalade|
|1/2 cup||Boiling water|
|up to 1 tablespoon||Dark soy sauce|
|2 teaspoons||Cornstarch/arrowroot starch|
|1/2||Star anise (not crushed) (You could try using an inch of cinnamon stick, or a whole clove or two if you don’t have any star anise. This is your ‘warm’ spice.)|
- Put applesauce, cordial, jelly and marmalade in small saucepan.
- Use boiling water to get last bits of flavour out of various empty jars and add to saucepan.
- Moisten cornstarch with soy sauce and add to saucepan.
- Stir to blend; add star anise (or other whole spice)–you may wish to use a tea ball to make retrieval easier, but some sauce will get stuck in the tea ball. (I don’t bother.)
- Heat on medium-high, whisking frequently.
- When boiling, whisk continuously until thickened.
- Remove from heat to cool for later use, or put aside on very low heat to keep warm until needed.The whole spice may be removed at this point, or allowed to continue adding its flavour to the sauce until serving.
Sauce may be stirred through stir-fried vegetables before serving, or placed in a small dish for self-service on the table.
If you feel like making a big batch, you can always pot it up into smaller jars in much the same way as other preserves.