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Making your own sauces, chutneys, jellies and the like puts a sparkle on your table at Christmas. But even the best-intentioned and most committed cooks can fall victim to a last-minute shopping emergency thanks to a sunny day in or on the water, one too many festive toasts or any of the season's other hazards. Fortunately the quality of bottled and jarred condiments available today is very high, whether you're talking about a much-loved international brand, or the efforts of a local chef. Here's a selection, in no particular order, of some of the best-tasting trimmings we'd be happy to see on our tables or under the tree.
1. Kitchen by Mike
The shelves around the fringes of Mike McEnearney's Sydney canteen are packed with the fruits of his regular visits to the markets, many of them preserved with flair. We love his piccalilli ($12 for 280gm), something he reckons is a "most amazing match" with leg ham, and the mango and coconut chutney ($12 for 280gm) which he says is "fantastic with roast pork". Available in store.
2. Tracklements from Simon Johnson
This British brand's spiced honey mustard ($10.95 for 140gm) is "particularly good with Virginia ham and makes a terrific glaze", says providore extraordinaire Simon Johnson. The fresh ginger in the apricot and ginger chutney ($17.55 for 340gm), he says, makes it "a great alternative to mango chutney". Johnson recommends the apple and sage jelly ($18.85 for 250gm) "for a cold pork and stuffing sandwich, or as a baste or glaze or in sauces and gravies, and it's superb with root vegetables", and the organic fig relish ($16.95 for 250gm) to accompany cheese.
3. Albert St Food & Wine
The watermelon rind pickle ($8 for 300gm) "is fantastic with baked ham or a cheese board", says chef Philippa Sibley, and her peach and ginger chutney ($8.50 for 300gm), she says, "works really well with both roast turkey and ham". She suggests adding some to the Christmas gravy: "it brings an amazing complexity". The hint of saffron in the peach version, too, is impressive.
4. Delouis Fils Champagne mustard from The Essential Ingredient
The Delouis Fils Champagne mustard ($5.90 for 200gm) is a great staple to have in the fridge at any time. It's a mild-flavoured mustard with a hint of Champagne, which makes it useful as something to brighten up meats and for whisking into dressings. The Essential Ingredient's Fiona Yue adds that it makes "for a festive marriage with Christmas ham".
5. The Jammery
The tomato chutney ($11.50 for 350gm), inspired by old Country Women's Association recipes, has a lovely kick of curry and paprika that makes for "a killer leftover sandwich, for that late-night snack or Boxing Day hangover", says owner Claudia Rowe. The piccalilli ($11.50 for 350gm) is spiced, the addition of mustard seed making it a natural partner for ham, while the cranberry sauce ($8.50 for 300gm) is classically tangy.
6. The Regimental Condiment Company
There's a lot to like across this entire range, but it's the mango chutney ($10.95 for 270gm) we're keen to pair with cold meats at our table. And then there's the orange and thyme jelly ($6.95 for 110gm), which owners Peter and Amanda Tehan say "makes a nice sauce with duck or fish" when used to deglaze a pan. There's cranberry sauce ($10.95 for 320gm) for the turkey, and while the seeded mustard ($9.95 for 190gm) is formulated with ham in mind, the Tehans suggest mixing it with mayonnaise for a classic Germanic-leaning potato salad.
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