I’ve been meaning to make ketchup for the last few years and finally got around to it this year. I wasn’t sure where to start so I asked our Facebook group for recommendations. A bunch of links came in and I checked them all out.
The decision was a little overwhelming; trying to compare a bunch of different recipes to each other using only a smart phone while sitting in the parking lot of a farm isn’t the ideal method of choosing a recipe. So I cheated: I picked a recipe written by Local Kitchen because I’ve made a bunch of Kaela’s recipes and always had fantastic experiences with them. Her recipe is titled classic tomato ketchup and while my recipe is very similar (I share it because it is altered and the technique varies significantly), and I really recommend you check hers out as well, especially if you’re looking for the ‘authentic’ ketchup experience!
A few notes on my recipe:
- It requires a food mill, tomato squeezer or high-speed blender (though this method will yield a more savory/ bitter product as the seeds and skill will be included in the final product). While many recipes will say that you can strain it through cheesecloth or a sieve, I don’t recommend it as you’ll lose a lot of pulp (texture) as well as increasing your food waste as usable solids don’t pass through the straining process.
- I did not remove 100% of my seeds; in part because my food mill wouldn’t allow for that and, in part, because I wanted a small bit of bitterness in the sauce (but don’t be mistaken – this is sweet like ketchup).
- I used a touch of ume boshi vinegar. It’s very salty and full of Umami (savory) as are tomatoes. The difference in taste was instant. You can skip this step if you don’t want it but I wouldn’t.
- Cooking times and yield are entirely subjective. The hotter you cook it, the quicker it will reduce. I reduce it very, very slowly. My total cooking time was likely 12-15 hours, spread over 3 days.
- If you’re not sure how to check the thickness of ketchup, the bottom of Monday’s post shares the 4 tests I use to check the consistency of ketchup.
- 24 pounds tomatoes
- 3 large onions
- 10 cherry hot peppers (Kaela uses cayenne and red pepper which would also work)
- 1 teaspoon celery powder (I used our dehydrated celery root flakes)
- 3 cups cider vinegar
- 1 whole cinnamon stick
- 4 teaspoon cloves
- 3 teaspoon allspice berries
- 1 head of garlic, peeled
- 4 cups of light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons ume boshi vinegar
You’ll also need a food mill and cheesecloth. This made 5 liters (quarts) of jam (I used pint jars) but your quantity will vary depending on the amount of reduction you do.
You don’t have to do this over a period of days, but I’ll share my instructions as I did it – over a weekend. Most of the time is passive.
- Clean the tomatoes (I dump them in the sink and do them at once.
- Put about a quarter of them into your pot. Cut them quickly (using care not to hit the sides of your pot) with kitchen scissors. Lightly crush them to reduce some juices (this speeds up cooking time and prevents burning).
- Repeat step 2 until done.
- Place the temperature on medium and reduce once the pot starts to simmer. The idea is to cook them at the gentlest simmer you can imagine. Stir from time to time.
I simmer them for as long as possible on night 1. This begins the reducing process as well as softens everything in the pot. Both factors help the food mill later – there’s less product to process and it’s softer/ easier. I simmered for 3-4 hours while we relaxed at home.
- Add the onions, garlic and cherry hot peppers.
- Cook the sauce at a light simmer all day, stirring frequently (skins and peels are still within it). I like the slight bitter tones that come from the skin and seed in it. I reduced for 6-8 hours.
- Allow to cool and store in fridge overnight.
A note on stirring: as the sauce reduces the side of your pan will become coated in thick residue. If any of it removes easily, add this back into your tomatoes as this will help thicken (think of it as tomato paste).
- Start the day with processing the sauce through a food mill. I start with cold sauce and process it into a clean pot that is over medium heat (slowly heating it as I’m processing it). Warm sauce will run through a sieve a bit easier (a bonus) but can be trickier to handle so I do this while I’m warming. I process the sauce through the mill 3-4 times.
- Wrap the allspice, cloves and cinnamon in cheesecloth and tie tightly (you’ll want to remove these later which is why you’re wrapping them now).
- Add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT THE UME BOSHI VINEGAR (the cider vinegar will make your sauce thinner again)
- Reduce your sauce until you are happy with the consistency (1.5-3 hours). Make sure to stir more often at this point – the added ingredients (especially the sugar) like to burn.
- Add ume boshi vinegar, remove the cheesecloth bag you placed in the pot.
- Prepare your water bath (a boiling pot with a rack on the bottom and enough water to cover your jars with an inch or more of water), jars (clean and heat them in boiling water) and lids (cover in boiling water). I used 500 ml (pint) jars for this.
- Constantly stir your ketchup as you fill the jars (or you’ll end up with some jars which are thick and some that are thin). Fill jars, one at a time, and leave a half-inch of head space.
- Process in water bath for 15 minutes.
- Remove and let cool.
It’s not as laborious as it may sound and I was really thrilled with the quantity of ketchup it produced!
Do you have any ketchup tips or favorite recipes?