Homemade Ketchup

I know I won't feel this way in February, but I have to admit: a teensy part of me is looking forward to frost.

You know, the part of me that is tired of picking tomatoes. The part of me that doesn't really need more than 36 quarts of tomato sauce put up for winter. The part of me that just can not chop any more salsa ingredients. 

The part of me that is sick to death of fruit flies hovering around all those tomatoes.

I know, I know. I'll miss them when they're gone (the tomatoes, not the fruit flies--they can go to hell). It's a long winter without fresh tomatoes, and by May I'll deeply regret having maligned their abundance in this post. 

But for now, what to do? There are just SO MANY. 

Enter ketchup.

We've been looking for something else to make, now that we are fully stocked with salsa, pasta sauce, ratatouille, jam, and soup. We first thought of giving ketchup a try last year, but it only occurred to us after frost killed the tomatoes for the season. We've had a while to think about it, and decided to go with The River Cottage recipe for ketchup. And I have to say, it's a good one. Definitely check it out for specifics on the ingredients.

Making ketchup is almost just like making tomato sauce, but you do the steps out of order. You start by rough chopping tomatoes, onions, and red bell pepper and cooking them all together in a big pot: 

I think cooking them together helps bring out the flavors differently than if we just started with tomato puree and added the rest of the ingredients. Like Indian food, the long, slow cook is important.

Once it's cooked and it's all very soft, run it through the food mill to remove seeds and skins and solid bits: 

You could always press it through a sieve, but life is so much easier with a real food mill, I promise.

Back on the stove with the ketchup puree. We also poured back in some of the flavorful water we lost during the milling process. At this point you add cider vinegar and brown sugar:

You also use a bit of cheesecloth to make a spice bag, which is filled with cinnamon, mustard seed, cloves, allspice, mace, celery seed, black pepper, garlic, and bay:

We cut back on the cloves and sugar but and added a teensy extra bit of mace, and were quite happy with the end result. Add the spice bag to the pot, give it a stir, and simmer it until it boils down to a nice, thick, ketchup-y consistency:

It's never going to be as preternaturally smooth as Heinz, but the flavor is excellent. It's not quite as sweet, but is more complex, and it has a clearer tomato flavor. Once you like the consistency, ditch the spice bag and add paprika and salt to taste. We used a hefty double shot of paprika and a healthy pinch of salt. For a spicy ketchup, you could replace the paprika with cayenne.

Follow regular canning procedures and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes:

We ended up with about a pint, but used tiny jars to store them, since it's a condiment. 

Of course we opened one right away and used it on our burgers last night. It's really good (id approved as well!), and it's one less thing we have to buy. Double score!


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