a home cook with notions & an appetite
Yes, that’s my ketchup. If you’re the least bit not crazy, you’re probably thinking, “why?” After all, doesn’t that Heinz company even make an organic without high-fructose corn syrup that still sells for a few bucks and tastes great on onion rings, burgers and french fries?
Of course they do. This, my friends, is absolute silliness. Silliness that I do because I adore Jamie Oliver. Even he admits this is a recipe you should try because, well, you should try it. Since when must everything have some major point? Besides, you do get the joy of saying, “I made my own ketchup.” Not many people go down this road. Consider it one of those things that will make you unique. Of course, not many people randomly ask about making ketchup, so telling people your ketchup-making anecdotes will be difficult to come by without looking like someone who’s forcing a conversation.
We first saw Jamie do ketchup in his tomato episode of Jamie at Home (a cookbook we highly recommend). He’d mentioned even then that it was a lot of work. This is not a lie, but you’ll feel accomplished when you’re done. And appreciate the ketchup industry a lot more. I promise.
You probably guessed that tomatoes were an ingredient in ketchup – did you know that these were also present? That’s not even the half of it – here were my ingredients:
2 large red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bulb of fennel, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 stick of celery, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
6 tablespoons minced garlic
1 red jalapeno & 1 cajun bell pepper chopped
1 large bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks chopped
2 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 pounds chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2/3 cup soft brown sugar
This doubled Jamie’s recipe and basically ended up making 2 ketchup containers worth of ketchup. Keep telling yourself, “this is an experience.” Because it is.
After rough chopping the veggies, I added the basil, garlic, ginger, coriander, cloves, pepper and some salt to a large pot (basically everything but the vinegar and sugar – and I held off on the tomatoes at first) with a bit of olive oil:
I sauteed the veggies and seasoning (without the tomatoes) over low heat for 15 minutes (there was much stirring) and then added the tomatoes and 3 cups of water once they were softened. At this point, it was about bringing this to a boil and then reducing the liquid by half over a simmer. This step would take a couple of hours because of the low temperatures involved. The smell was completely worth it. I’ll also tell you the truth – we let it sit overnight because we knew we wouldn’t get to the next steps that same day.
Next steps first involved the VitaMix in several batches:
I can’t stress enough how great it is to take rough-chopped vegetables and see them pureed like this in under a minute. I know that this almost looks like ketchup, but we’re not really close. MacGuyver-time is afoot.
MacGuyver time involves a fine-mesh strainer which would have taken hours upon hours to strain the remaining solids out of the puree and the pestle from a mortar and pestle used with a heavy-but-light touch so that the liquid is forced through but the mesh remains intact:
See, there are plenty of solids – and we (okay, husband did the straining, I took photos and poured into the strainer) had to do this in several small batches. This is actually done twice – and for as much of the solids as we were sure couldn’t have possibly gotten through in the first strain, we found similar solids left behind during the second strain.
What we were left with was an incredibly smooth sauce that was ready for the power-punch of vinegar and brown sugar. This was a final simmer and a thickening until it was the consistency of ketchup. Husband and I let this go for about 2 hours with frequent stirrings and tastings along the way. Tastings were frequently punctuated with, “this is ketchup!”
As you might have noticed, the ketchup darkened along the way and became thicker. Like ketchup! This is definitely not the color of a traditional Heinz, but they start with a tomato concentrate that I imagine is more akin to red tomato pastes rather than a ripe, less red tomato that’s mixed with all sorts of fresh veggies and basil. It tastes like a fancier version of ketchup with loads of pride and the potential for a great anecdote one day. So, please, someone, if we’re at that kind of party, give us the opening to talk about making homemade ketchup. We promise to make our tale all kinds of interesting when we tell it…we’re even able to manufacture overcoming tragedies beset by rogue squirrels during the process if you feel it will help.