I used to think if there was to be an international condiment competition, ranch dressing — regardless of brand — would win, hands-down. But then I moved to the U.K., and discovered their ranch selection was two brands at the most, and neither tasted like the dressing of my motherland.
Like all international moves, it takes time to acclimate to new surroundings, and finding your way around the supermarket aisles is part of the assimilation. While I waited for my mom to send ranch seasoning packets via snail mail, I had to branch out into the unknown — brands, flavors, spice levels.
As the months and years of my expatriation passed, I discovered more and more condiments and sauces to love. I'd bring bottles back to the U.S. to share with family and friends. A few jars found their way into Christmas stockings and care packages. Soon enough, my British pantry was stocked with more local condiments than imported, and that's how it should be.
That is until I moved back to the U.S. and wished my favorites from my other homeland could be found more easily stateside. Having lived (and dipped, dressed, spread ,and sauced) on both sides of the pond, I am no longer so confident about ranch's chances of winning. These mighty British condiments and sauces are not to be underestimated.
Don't let the bright-yellow hue turn you off — that's just the turmeric. This chunky, tangy relish made of pickled vegetables and spices is the perfect accompaniment to meat and cheese. Add to a cheeseboard or put it next to the ketchup at a BBQ.
2. Branston Pickle
Keeping with the pickled theme, this sticky brown relish is sweeter than the aforementioned Piccalilli, but still packs a punch. Containing diced vegetables and fruit, this chutney comes in various levels of chunkiness, which I appreciate. However you like it, Branston Pickle is a kitchen must-have and goes great with a strong cheddar. Cheese-and-pickle (as in Branston) sandwiches are a thing in the U.K., and for good reason.
3. Salad Cream
Seen everywhere from pub tables to birthday parties to my mother-in-law's fridge, this salad dressing is basically mayo mixed with vinegar and sugar. This sauce was a 1940s wartime staple — an alternative to mayonnaise and ketchup, which were expensive and hard to come by — but is often snubbed these days. I still remain a loyal fan, though. And don't let the name fool you – it's delicious on more than just salad.
4. HP Sauce
Referred to as "brown sauce," this popular table condiment is, you guessed it, brown — and vinegary, slightly sweet, and thicker than A1 sauce. In the States, HP Sauce is probably the most widely distributed of the British table condiments, but I'm always surprised by how few Americans actually know it. Next time you reach for A1, try HP instead.
5. Mint Sauce
Served with lamb as part of a Sunday roast, mint sauce is readily available at British restaurants and pubs and in homes around the U.K. The mixture of mint, vinegar, and sugar is sometimes drizzled on mushy peas, a classic accompaniment to fish and chips. Leftover sauce works well in cucumber salad or added to yogurt to make a dip.
6. Lemon Curd
Lemon curd is a well-known ingredient in desserts in the U.S., but in the U.K. it's also totally acceptable to spread on breakfast items like toast or crumpets. Smooth and tart, lemon curd is the perfect treat to start your day. Move over, Nutella.
It's hard to believe I ever lived a life without custard. While it can easily be homemade, a can of Ambrosia Devon custard or the powdered Bird's version will do. Served hot or cold, custard is a fantastic alternative to whipped cream or ice cream.
8. Clotted Cream
My favorite part of afternoon tea is the scones, but only because they come with clotted cream. Thick and rich, a dollop goes a long way. Homemade or from a jar, clotted cream will never go to waste. It's amazing spread on scones or heaped onto grilled fruit or eaten straight off a spoon.