I love ketchup. And I’m not alone. According to research, we Americans spend almost half a billion dollars a year on our beloved condiment. We dunk our French fries in it, we douse our burgers with it, we even have TV commercials with catchy pop songs promoting our favorite brands – well, you get the picture. Yes, ketchup is A Big Thing indeed.
But I’m here to tell you, my favorite ketchup doesn’t come from a store, or a bottle. And it doesn’t have a drop of high fructose corn syrup in it, either. I even know how many tomatoes are in each jar, because I grew them and peeled them myself! Yep, my favorite ketchup is homemade, and I’m here to tell you it’s not that difficult to make it yourself. The two main things you need are tomatoes, and time.
After a lot of experimenting over the years, my favorite recipe for homemade ketchup is an adaptation of the one in my trusty Ball Blue Book. Since tomatoes are the number one ingredient, it pays to choose them carefully, using ripe and sound ones. There’s no doubt in my mind that better tasting tomatoes equal better tasting ketchup. I’ve found that a mix of paste and regular tomatoes makes for a great tasting and thick ketchup. But really, any good, ripe tomatoes will make a ketchup that is way better than any store bought brand!
If you are looking for a recipe that tastes like the kind of stuff you get in a squeeze bottle, then this is not the one for you. As with all recipes for canning and preserving, you should be careful about changing the ingredients or proportions very much, lest you wind up with a product that is unsafe to eat. This recipe uses white granulated sugar for sweetening, which was the preferred sweetener in a 2011 Cook’s Illustrated taste testing of store brands. My version uses apple cider vinegar, less salt and spices, and omits the paprika called for by the original recipe. And I also leave the spices in for a shorter period of time.
Homemade Tomato Ketchup Print This Recipe
adapted from a Ball Blue Book recipe
4 quarts red-ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped, with most of seeds removed (about 8-10 pounds)
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp mustard seed
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar (with 5% acidity)
1. Cook tomatoes, onions, and peppers in a non-reactive pan until soft (about 10 minutes). Press through a food mill or sieve. If you don’t mind a few more seeds, you can process in a blender instead.
2. Cook rapidly until volume is reduced by half, about 1 hour.
3. Tie whole spices in a cheesecloth bag; add with sugar and salt to tomato mixture. Cook gently about 25 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove spice bag.
4. Add vinegar, cook until very thick. As mixture thickens, lower heat and stir frequently to prevent sticking. This will take an additional 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
5. Pour hot into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Adjust caps. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.
6. Store sealed jars in a cool dry place, where they should keep for up to a year. Store opened jars in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Yield: About 3 pints.
Nutrition (per serving): 29 calories, 1 calories from fat, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 99.8mg sodium, 134.9mg potassium, 7.3g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 5.7g sugar, <1g protein, 11.2mg calcium, <1g saturated fat.