Monday, August 25, 2014

The Last Word in Ketchup

So I did a little ketchup research.  The ketchup I made last year was not exactly to our taste; it seems that a lot of homemade ketchup is watery around the edges with lots of spices in it.  I recently read an article on The Kitchn about how Heinz ketchup is the perfect balance of salt, sweet, and savory.  There are copycat Heinz recipes out there, but they usually start with tomato paste and end with lots of corn syrup.  I wanted to make thick, smooth ketchup with the Heinz-like balance, starting with fresh tomatoes (I've been working through 2 bushels for about a week now - just a quarter-bushel to go!).

So I cobbled together a few ideas from my research, and I am very pleased with the resulting recipe! I've been talking tomatoes with a number of people recently, and several are interested in this specific recipe.

Simple Ketchup
Yield:  approximately 5 half-pints

6 lbs. tomatoes
2 medium onions
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1-2 whole cloves
3-5 peppercorns
pinch celery seeds
3 Tbsp. corn syrup
2 Tbsp. cook-type Clear Jel

Core tomatoes. Peel onions. Chop roughly.  Puree tomatoes and onions in food processor.  Place in 6 quart slow cooker on high with lid on for 1-2 hours. Stir in vinegar, sugar, and salt.  Place spices in tea ball or cheesecloth bag and add to mixture. Cook on low or high for about 8 hours with lid removed or cocked until significantly reduced and thickened. Avoid stirring, which slows down the evaporation. Remove spices.  May puree ketchup with immersion blender here (I do). Separately, mix Clear Jel with corn syrup.  Whisk into hot ketchup very slowly and thoroughly.  Cook for another hour or so with lid off, stirring often, until thick and glossy.  Taste for balance of sweetness, saltiness, and sour.  Adjust. Process half-pint jars in water-bath canner for 30 minutes to seal (pints 35 minutes).

tomato jam, salsa, ketchup, tomato soup base, pizza sauce

Note:  You could cook the tomatoes and onions together first until they're soft, then put them through a food mill.  This effectively removes all skins and seeds. I puree mine pretty well, but there will be an occasional seed floating through the ketchup.  I'll trade that for the efficiency of the food processor any day.

Note:  All slow cookers vary, which is why I say "low or high" with "lid removed or cocked."  If you've never tried to reduce liquids in your slow cooker before, you're going to have to pay attention the first time.   The ketchup will not scorch - that's the beauty of a slow cooker over the stovetop  method.

Note: Clear Jel is usually approved for canning.  Cornstarch and flour are not approved for use in canning (although there are some people who feel comfortable canning with them).  Do not decrease the processing time.  Alternately, you could simply refrigerate the ketchup.


Zoë said...

I am one of those that cans with flour, but you knew that :)

Also, for fruit pie filling recipes and my salsa, I use thermflo as the thickener. Supposedly it's the best for canning as it doesn't separate. I don't know how it compares to clear jell as I've never used that in canning.

What do you do with tomato jam?

Margo said...

Zoe, here's an article from Penn State Extension discussing the various thickeners:

This is the first year I made tomato jam. I'm planning to eat it on egg sandwiches, but I'm sure there will be more uses, too. It's a little spicy and totally delicious.

Sarah Barry said...

Impressive! I love ketchup, though the older I get I'm less of an addict.

It really is just tomato-anything that I love.

jenny_o said...

I am so impressed by your output! The first time I even realized ketchup could be made at home was when my father needed to go on a low salt diet and I stumbled on a recipe for low-salt ketchup. It boggled my mind :)

And I love that first picture with your boy draped upside down over the sofa - he kind of reminds me of Flat Stanley (in the book of the same name)!!

BLD in MT said...

This post is well timed. The tomatoes are reddening up and canning is upon us! We've talked about making ketchup for a couple years now (I don't like it, but Matt does.) but never have gotten it done. We got a slow cooker for a wedding present this summer and you've been perfecting your recipe. Seems like it might be time!

BLD in MT said...

That is a GREAT photo of Ben and the tomatoes, by the way...

Unknown said...

I'm making a batch today. I got some nice tomatoes at the farmers market. I was planning to make a spicy tomato jam, but my husband said "Why?" hmmm. We're out of ketchup, and, so WHY NOT. I'll let you know how it turns out. It's still cooking.


Margo said...

Mona, I think you should still make the spicy tomato jam - I made Food in Jars' jam and it's AMAZING. I think this is the year of the tomato condiments at my house! Hope you liked your ketchup results. . .