Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ketchup: It's All In The Presentation

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Homemade ketchup with sweet potato fries
Homemade ketchup with sweet potato fries

All of my kids enjoy different toppings and accent sauces like salsa, salad dressings, tartar sauces, hot sauces, remoulades and many different kinds of vinegar.  Their favorite by far though is ketchup.  Homemade ketchup is not like the big name brand if you are going for something with a bit more flavor and no corn syrup.  That does not mean that it can't be as big a favorite with your kids!  The key to making the transition to homemade is in how you present it.

Homemade ketchup squeeze bottle
Homemade ketchup squeeze bottle

Squeeze bottles are a staple around my house because we buy so many things in bulk like olive oil, honey, soy sauce, mustard and other pantry items.  Finding a ketchup like squeeze bottle with a lid works great when transitioning to your own homemade goodness.  Make sure the bottle is meant for food service and that it has a tip cap.  Homemade ketchup will dry out if it is not capped when storing it.  I prefer a bottle with the tip cap attached - a lot less hassle keeping track of the tiny thing that way.

For my area it is the beginning of the plum tomato season so you will be seeing many more posts about putting them up for the year.  This first recipe for ketchup is kid tested and approved and I can recommend it highly.  If you choose to alter it be sure you keep the tomato/vinegar/fresh vegetable ratio accurate in order to home can it safely.  You can alter the seasonings to fit your family's tastes as you see fit.  I hope this helps you replace a high fructose corn syrup pantry standard with a healthier choice in your house!

Homemade ketchup is healthier and tastier than the big brand stuff, and one of the easiest tomato season items to put up yourself.
  • 12 cups plum tomatoes, cut into quarters (I use Roma)
  • 1 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 - 1 Tbl kosher salt
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  1. Wash and remove any bad spots from your tomatoes. You do not need to peel or core them since they will be thoroughly blended before you are done. Put your quartered tomatoes, onion, red pepper, vinegar and 1/2 tablespoon salt into a large pot over a medium-high flame. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 40 minutes, or until all of the vegetables are very soft.
  2. Using your stick blender carefully puree the sauce until it is very smooth. This can also be done in batches in your blender, being extremely careful since hot stuff expands. Be sure the lid is covered with a towel you hold over it and the center feed cap is removed to help prevent burns. However you do it, make the sauce as smooth as you would like it to be before proceeding.
  3. Add the brown sugar and all of the spices to the tomato puree, stirring well. Bring this back up to a boil and then turn the heat down, letting the ketchup boil gently until it reduces by about half. Be sure to stir this regularly to prevent burning - more often as it thickens. Taste and adjust the salt, sugar, or other seasonings as you see fit.
  4. Prepare your jars, lids, rings and canner. If you are new to water bath canning, or it has been a while, be sure to refresh your skills from a reliable and official source to guide you through this process.
  5. Once the ketchup has reduced and thickened enough to mound on a spoon, it is ready to be canned. Fill your hot jars with the ketchup leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove any bubbles and adjust the headspace one last time.
  6. Clean the rim of the jar thoroughly, apply your hot lid, and then the ring. Tighten the ring just until "finger tip tight", not too tight, but not loose either.
  7. Process you jars in a hot water bath for 15 minutes measuring the time after the water returns to a full boil. Adjust your processing time as necessary depending on your elevation.
  8. Remove your jars from the water bath to a cloth covered counter. Let them cool completely for 12-24 hours before testing the seals. Any jars that do not seal properly are still perfectly good to eat, just keep them in the refrigerator.
  9. Store your ketchup in a cool dark place. This ketchup is ready to eat immediately, no wait time necessary.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 half pint jars
Last, but not least, if you are brand new to water bath canning be sure to follow best practices outlined by reliable sites such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation or the University of Missouri Extension. Home canning is something anyone can do!