One of my favorite aspects of the food swaps Emily Paster and I have been organizing is the motivation to innovate and cook new things. I wanted to prepare something savory, something that people would be able to enjoy more than once, and something easy to transport. As the unbelievable spring weather has had us grilling like fiends, I decided to make homemade ketchup, or catsup, depending on your preferred spelling. Whipping up a batch of roasted tomato ketchup turned out to be quite a labor of love, but one that yielded great dividends.
Before I launch into my recipe, let me digress for a bit on the ketchup vs. catsup debate. A little googling led me to a funny but informative post by foodiggity. Both ketchup and catsup indeed refer to the same product and have since the early 1700s. Heinz claimed the ketchup spelling while many competitors (including Hunts) went with catsup. But in the 80s, the ketchup vs. catsup debate was essentially ended when Congress considered officially recognizing ketchup (and not catsup) as a serving of vegetables in school lunches. In fear of being left out of this important contribution to childhood nutrition, Hunts and all other competitors promptly renamed their condiments as ketchup. Who knew a little packet filled with hefty amounts of sugar and fruit could be so nutritious?
Now that the heated ketchup/catsup debate has been settled, I shall henceforth refer to the condiment as ketchup.
Making homemade ketchup did instill me with newfound respect for Heinz and Hunts and all the other commercial ketchup producers out there (high fructose corn syrup and all) because it turns out that it takes a lot of tomatoes to make a little ketchup. I should have consulted the original recipe from the Sugar House Book in 1801 which states, ” One hundred tomatoes will make four or five bottles and keep good for two or three years.” To put this in today’s terms, two bags filled to burst with discount Trader Joe’s Roma tomatoes (25 to be exact), yields 5 little jars of homemade tomato ketchup. But what a ketchup! Each bite is a revelation, intensely tomato-y with sweet and spicy notes that linger luxuriously on your tongue.
Making homemade ketchup is well worth the effort. Once you’ve taken the plunge, you may never go back to the commercially made version. You’ll become the snob of the neighborhood barbecue, carting around your little homemade jars, making converts and new friends everywhere you go.
Everyone loves the homemade ketchup maker.
Many recipes called for peeling and seeding the tomatoes before beginning, but I just dealt with them later in the process by putting them through a food mill. At that point, the tomato skins were delicious, and we devoured them in omelets, sauces, or just smeared on crackers with a little cream cheese. I did roast the tomatoes before beginning the ketchup to intensify their flavor. I love a recipe with delicious, usable discards.
I wanted to give my ketchup a sexy name to create a little buzz at the food swap, so I called it ancho chili ketchup. This was a classic marketing mistake as many swappers asked me if it was very spicy. The ancho chili quantities are quite mild, and so I too have rebranded my condiment, to better reflect the recipe. It is now called Roasted Tomato Ketchup, and you’ll find the ancho chili listed in the recipe ingredients along with other not so secret ingredients.
Making homemade ketchup is definitely a labor of love, but it is well worth the effort. The result is intense, sweet and a little spicy. You'll be hooked after your first batch.
- 25 Roma Tomatoes, sliced in half
- 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
- 2 sweet Vidalia onions, minced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into small dice
- 1 orange bell pepper, cut into small dice
- 1 cup of cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons of ancho chili powder
- 1 teaspoon of chipotle pepper powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Slice the Roma tomatoes in half and arrange face up on two cookie sheets. Drizzle with olive oil.
- Roast for 25 minutes. They should now be wrinkly but not burnt.
- Once the tomatoes have cooled enough to handle, puree them in batches in the food processor.
- In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil on medium/high heat.
- Add the onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the diced peppers and saute for an additional 3 minutes.
- Now add the brown sugar, chipotle, ancho, and cayenne peppers. Mix well and saute for another minute to meld the flavors together.
- Add the tomatoes and finally the cider vinegar. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium.
- Cook for 20 minutes, stirring periodically.
- Now remove the mixture and put it through a food mill to remove the pulp. There will be much liquid still trapped in the pulp after you finish with the food mill, so put the pulp in a fine mesh sieve and press it down with a spoon to get every bit of tomato essence. Once you've squeezed all the moisture out, reserve the tomato pulp for other uses such as omelette filling, quiche, sandwich toppings, or cracker toppings.
- Return the tomato liquid to the stockpot. Cook on low heat for 2-3 hours until reduced into a fourth or a fifth of the beginning, and nice and thick. It may be sad to see so much liquid disappear, but just think of it as getting exponentially more delicious as it shrinks.
- Once the ketchup is ready, pour it into cans and process it, or keep it in the fridge for a week to 10 days.