A large number of sapid substances are added to the foods to stimulate the saliva and gastric juices. They add flavour, and relieve the monotony of diet.
It is easy to fall into the habit of taking condiments to excess,especially vinegar, pickles, and strong curries. This is sometimes met with in the case of Anglo-Indians. If used in excess they may over-stimulate gastric secretion and derange the intestinal digestion.
Those in common use are salt, vinegar, mustard, pepper.
Among all the different condiments there is none so useful as vinegar. Its flavour is stimulating, and in addition vinegar has an important action in softening the fibres of hard meat and the cellulose of green vegetables hence it is eaten with lamb in the form of mint sauce, with salmon as vinegar sauce, and is also added to salads. Vinegar is acetic acid ; it can be made from wine, beer, various fruits, and from the distillation of wood. Good French vinegar contains 5 per cent, of acetic acid. Genuine vinegar is produced by oxidation of alcohol by a fungus (Mycodernta aceti); wood vinegar is produced by the destructive distillation of wood, the product being often coloured by burnt sugar. This lacks the volatile ethers which characterise pure vinegar. Malt vinegar ought to be made from the fermentation of malt, but it is frequently made from dilute spirit got from sugar or molasses. Vinegar has also an antiseptic and preservative action-and it is largely used for pickling fish, oysters, and vegetables.
Vinegar enters largely into sauces-Worcester sauce, Yorkshire relish, ketchup, etc. These are useful to give flavour to an insipid dish, or to add to soup. Taken in moderation they are harmless. For invalids for whom strong sauces are not desirable, a little harmless flavouring can be added to the food by boiling a few aromatic herbs, e.g., parsley or mint with water, adding pepper and salt.
Mustard simply stimulates the salivary and gastric glands, and thus increases the digestive juices. Mustard owes its properties to an oil of mustard which is in combination with a nitrogenous ferment; from these, on the addition of water, the oil is gradually formed, hence mustard should be made freshly so as to secure the full flavour. It is used to advantage in moderation in salad dressings and with cold meat. Mustard seeds ground would be unpalatable, hence the commercial article is always diluted with starch. Its use as a counter-irritant applied to the skin is well known, and a useful emetic can be readily prepared by adding a tablespoonful of mustard to a tumbler of lukewarm water.
Pepper occurs as peppercorns, the natural berries in their dried and shrivelled state; also as black pepper, where the whole berry is dried and ground for use. White pepper is made from the same berry, ground after the outer husk has been removed. The pungent property is due to a volatile oil containing peperine; this is more irritating than oil of mustard.
Cayenne pepper is made from the crushed pod of various species of capsicum. The red pods of the capsicum are used in pickles, and are called chilies. It is a strong irritant to both skin and mucous membrane. It is generally eaten with raw oysters and whitebait. It is used as a substitute for alcohol for dipsomaniacs, and is used as a tincture to relieve the drink craving.
Spices are solely of value in giving variety of taste to food. Tasteless farinaceous foods can be made attractive by spicing. The simplest flavourings are vanilla, ginger, and cinnamon, and these may be used for invalids and children.
Ginger is a rhizome or underground stem; it contains starch, which makes the substance a food as well as a condiment.
The rhizome is scraped and dried, and sold as "root ginger," or it is afterwards powdered and sold as powdered ginger. The young roots boiled and preserved in syrup constitute preserved ginger, or if the substance is boiled in sugar it becomes crystallised ginger. Ginger owes its properties to oil of ginger, from which the essence of ginger is made; this is much used in flavouring and in the making of ginger beer, syrup ginger, and aerated water. Homebrewed ginger beer is made from ginger roots, sugar, lemons, cream of tartar along with yeast, and bottled before fermentation is complete. Ginger wine is made like ginger beer, with the addition of spirit, and, like true wines, improves with keeping. Its action may be described as stimulating and carminative.
An aromatic; it owes its properties to oil of cinnamon, which is got from the bark of a small tree. Its action is tonic, stomachic, and carminative; it is also a strong disinfectant and germicide. Its odour and flavour are delightful, and it is used medicinally and as a flavouring agent.
Nutmegs and mace are got from the same plant. Mace is the surrounding membrane of the nut. They are aromatic substances imparting a very characteristic flavour.
Cloves are flower buds of a plant taken and dried. About one-fifth or one-sixth of their weight consists of oil of cloves, and to this they owe their hot taste and characteristic smell.
Jamaica pepper, or pimento, is a fruit grown in the West Indies. The name comes from the aroma resembling a mixture of cloves, cinnamon, or nutmeg. Like cloves, it is aromatic.
Caraway seeds are from an umbelliferous plant; they are carminatives and tonics. Oil of caraway is given for flatulence. They are used in confectionery and for flavouring cordials.
Coriander seeds are carminative and aromatic, and used in the same way as caraway seeds.
Vanilla is obtained from vanilla beans, the pods of an orchid grown in Mexico and other tropical regions. Its essence makes a very agreeable flavouring agent for puddings, custards, and ices. Its chief use is in the manufacture of chocolate.
Aromatic herbs are used for flavouring in various ways. These are: parsley, chopped and added to soup or sauce; mint, either spearmint, used in mint sauce, or peppermint, an aromatic carminative much used; thyme and marjoram, used for seasoning; sage, chiefly used in the stuffing of geese; dill, a member of the umbelliferae - the leaves are used to flavour pickles, and the fruit made into dill water makes a favourite carminative for infants; fennel is another herb of the same family, used as a flavouring for salads and sauces.
Curry powders of various sorts are prepared by mixing strong aromatics and condiments with starchy substances. It owes its peculiar odour and bright colour to the presence of turmeric, a variety of ginger largely cultivated in the East Indies. Thorough cooking is absolutely necessary to develop the full flavour of the various ingredients in curry powder. Two recipes for curry powder may be given (Knight): -
Turmeric powder ...
Coriander seed powder..
Cinnamon seeds ....
Turmeric . ...
Coriander . ...
Mace . .. . . .
Horse-radish is a condiment which increases the saliva; may be eaten shredded down with meat or oyster, or made into a piquant sauce.