Ketchup

I like to think of myself as a pretty practical person who doesn’t make extra work for herself.  I make time for things that are priorities for me (like hanging out with Miles and cooking from scratch), and I’ve learned to ask for help for things that don’t get as much attention from me as they should (like cleaning the house – we have had a wonderful couple cleaning for us for just over a year, and it’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent!).

Occasionally though, I get a little obsessed about something that seems like it should be a low priority. Case in point: homemade ketchup. Heinz has got it figured out pretty well and it’s not something we eat very often, so it seems like it shouldn’t have been necessary to  make my own.  However, sometimes we get a little crazy when our kids are involved, and that’s what happened in this case.

Miles discovered ketchup on a recent trip to “our usual restaurant” (as he so casually called it), while scarfing down a few fries with his salmon fillet. (What other toddler wants salmon instead of a burger, I ask you?) He thought it was the bomb, and I figured that it would be fun to come up with a healthier version (avoiding the TWO kinds of corn syrup in the regular stuff).

I remembered reading about homemade ketchup on SouleMama, a blog I read with equal parts envy and eye-rolling. I checked to see if she provided a recipe, but she didn’t- just a reference to a recipe book. I immediately put the book on hold at the library, but I didn’t want to wait that long, so I kept scouring the web. I found a recipe that claimed to be based on the same book, another from the authors of the book, and another from Bernardin, the company that makes canning supplies and basically writes the home-canning gospel in Canada.  There was a pretty big range of spices and sugar, so I made a spreadsheet that compared the ingredients in the three recipes, and then came up with my own hybrid.

If the late summer/early fall glut of tomatoes is still available in your neck of the woods, I highly recommend this as a way of preserving some of that delicious goodness! I used Roma tomato “seconds” from the farmers’ market, which worked out very well.

Homemade Ketchup

  • 8 lbs tomatoes (use fleshier varieties, like Roma)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • ½ tsp celery seeds 
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 1 tsp whole cloves 
  • 1 tsp whole all spice 
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar 
  • 1/3 cup white sugar 
  • 1 Tbsp pickling/coarse salt

Wash tomatoes and cut into half or quarters. There’s no need to blanch them or remove the seeds, as that will happen later with the food mill.

Core and seed the bell pepper and chop coarsely. Chop onion coarsely too.

Place all veggies into a large pot. I had to use both of my largest soup pots. Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer. Simmer as long as you have available. I did mine for several hours in the evening.

When the mixture is starting to thicken up a bit, run it through a food mill. I ran my through twice – once on the middle-sized disc and once on the finest disc.

Bring mixture back to a simmer.

Cut out a 3-or 4-ply square of cheesecloth, or get yourself a tea bag that is meant for loose tea. Place all the spices into the cheesecloth/tea bag and seal it up tight so the celery seeds don’t escape.  Put the bundle into the simmering tomatoes.

Add the vinegar, sugars and salt. Reduce your sauce until you are happy with the consistency (1.5-3 hours).  Make sure to stir more often at this point, since the  sugar could burn.  Remove the spice bundle when you’re done simmering.

There are a lot of tips on how to check if your ketchup is thick enough. I may have gone a little overboard on the thickening stage, but too thick is better than too runny, I think.

Once your ketchup is thick, pour it into prepared canning jars and process in a boiling water canner for 15 min.  There are good canning instructions here and here, so I won’t repeat the information again.

From 8 pounds of tomatoes, I got 4 and a bit cups of ketchup.

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One Response to Ketchup

  1. Karen says:

    Sounds delicious! I should make a batch for us. We enjoy ketchup, and I do a fair bit of canning. Your post made me think of the really delicious homemade ketchup at the High Level Diner in Edmonton, near the university. We try to get there whenever we are in town. I will see if there is a recipe on line…mmmm….

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