Homemade Ketchup

What do you think the most consumed condiment is?  By definition, a condiment can be considered a sauce or seasoning… so salt, pepper, and anything like it could be considered a condiment.  When looking up answers I saw equal commentary between mayo, salt, mustard, pepper, and ketchup.

Oh the beloved ketchup…banned from European school lunch rooms and other eateries alike…but not the US; we love our high levels of processed sugar and synthetic ingredients (*sarcasm*).  Reading through the ingredients on a typical ketchup bottle, the words ‘High Fructose Corn Syrup’ is one of the first on the list among other unpronounceable ingredients.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of ketchup.  Fries, maybe…a hot dog, ok (ps, our fries are homemade from local organic potatoes and our hot dogs come from organic, uncured, grass-fed sustainably raised beef).  I’ve also used ketchup in the mixture of meatloaf, meatballs, or the basis for BBQ sauces.  Beyond that, I don’t look to ketchup much.  My husband on the other hand… will douse anything in mass amounts of ketchup.  A cheesy plate of farm fresh scrambled eggs…ketchup.  A bowl of freshly steamed rice…ketchup.  A plate of zesty roasted potatoes…ketchup.  And it’s not just a little ketchup… it’s a lot!  Sometimes a 1/4 of the bottle or more.

Given the less than healthy ingredients in ketchup, the unsafe storage in BPA lined plastic bottles, and my Tita’s ‘horror’ stories from her youth working in the local tomato processing plant (think rodents, dirt, hair, etc.), I decided it’s best to keep our family away from processed ketchup.

I did some research on the world-wide web and found several varieties.  The first version I tested required a lot of tomatoes.  Based on this recipe, I went through 14 quarts of our own home canned tomatoes.  I used a crock pot for the reduction and unfortunately it turned out to be more like BBQ sauce than ketchup.  Keeping the lid on the crock pot kept moisture in the pot and reduction took longer than planned; the consistency of the sauce never turned.  Also the ingredients used were more a basis for BBQ sauce.  I did not waste this mixture.  I canned it for future use in baked beans or to start a zesty BBQ sauce.  Although the process took time (the tomatoes must reduce to less than half), I did not have to sit next to the stove the entire duration of the reduction.  At the right temperature I was able to come back to the pot every so often, give a stir, and go on with other tasks.

The recipe that I decided to go with came from a site called Brooklyn Farmhouse.  Their recipe only used a small amount of tomatoes and simple spices.  I decided to add my twist to the mixture and give it a go.  The result was a tangy fresh ketchup I felt good about giving my family.  The original recipe calls for onion, white vinegar, and jalapeno.  It also shows a bay leaf in the picture but for some reason the written recipe didn’t list one.  With that I decided to replace the white vinegar with apple cider vinegar, I used a bit more brown sugar, replaced the onion with shallots, removed the jalapeno (since I don’t have any in season now but will try a version once they come back into season), and added the bay leaf to the spice mixture.  Best of all, I am able to use the home canned local organic tomatoes I canned this past season.  We’re coming up on a new season of tomatoes and I wanted to find something beyond the basic sauces & soups to use my canned tomatoes for.

The cool thing about ketchup is you can made several variations…spicy or sweet, the real stuff is actually pretty good… enjoy!

* = organic
*^ = organic / local

Homemade Ketchup – Basic
A 3 quart sauce pan
Cheese cloth
2 – 28oz canned tomatoes *^
3/4 cup brown sugar *
1 cup apple cider vinegar *
6-8 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon all spice
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
2-3 shallots, peeled & chopped *^
2 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped *^
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

First, assemble your bay leaves, cinnamon, chili flakes, celery seed, allspice, and cloves onto a medium doubled square of cheese cloth.  You can use cooking twine to tie the packet.  I cut a thin strip of cheese cloth and tie around the packet.  It resembles a tea bag or also known as a bouquet garni.  In a 3 quart sauce pan, add the canned tomatoes (juice and all), the chopped shallots, garlic, salt, brown sugar, and apple cider vinegar.  Stir till all ingredients are incorporated and add in the spice packet.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

You want the liquid to reduce and thicken.  This could take an hour or more (and more is ok if you’re looking for a thick ketchup).  I kept my pot simmering for two hours and then removed it from the heat.  I removed the spice packet and used an emulsion hand blender to puree the mixture.  You can also use a blender but make sure to let the mixture cool before placing the contents in the blender.  After the mixture is pureed to your desired consistency, place the pot back on the stove for additional thickening.

Note that when the mixture cools it will thicken more.  Be careful to manage the heat and not let your ketchup burn otherwise you’ll have to start over.  Once the ketchup has reached the desired consistency, remove from heat, let cool, and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.  Since I do not remove the seeds from my tomatoes before canning, I will run my thickened puree through a fine mesh strainer to catch the remaining seeds.  Then you can place the strained mixture in a glass jar and refrigerate.  You can also water-bath or pressure can your ketchup for long-term storage (make sure to follow proper canning instructions).  This recipe makes roughly 3-4 cups of delicious ketchup…enjoy!

One response to “Homemade Ketchup

  1. Pingback: Homemade Mayonnaise and Mustard – Basic | The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet

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