Pass the Ketchup Please! {recipe} An experiment in making homemade ketchup

Homemade ketchup is more orangey than it's commercial counterpart. The added bonus? Tailor it to your tastebuds. Like it more spicy? Sweeter? Less sweet? More tangy? Less tangy? The possibilities are endless!
My love affair with ketchup began as a child. I loved the ritual. After all, when this love affair began, there was no such thing as a "squeeze" bottle. No, back then, ketchup came in thin, Coca-Cola-like glass bottles that required turning them upside down and smacking their bottoms with your free hand and then exclaiming in surprise when it gushed out in a huge stream, giving you triple the amount you intended.

It was incredibly sweet and the good ones were thick and rich and RED. Yes, that's the ketchup I grew up with.

Whilst the rest of my family drowned their food in my Dad's homemade salsa, I used ketchup. It went on my eggs and in my bacon tacos, I drowned my refried beans with it and smothered my tamales with it. Ketchup would even grace my mashed potatoes in place of the gravy that I hated. It was, by far, my condiment of choice.

As an adult, I am loyal to a particular brand but my excursions to a few local restaurants and their artisan ketchups made me re-evaluate my loyalty. Tastebuds now a little more refined have found commercial ketchups a bit sweet.

Beautiful tomatoes of varying sizes from Dad's garden. 
Enter Dad's Garden

Every year, Dad grows several varieties of tomatoes. Every year I am offered some of the bountiful harvest. Every year I take just a handful. The single gal in me didn't think I could use them all before they spoiled. I'd take home two or three and pray I would remember I had them and actually incorporate them into my meals.

This summer was different. My realization that I could use some of Dad's gorgeous crop for an experiment in homemade ketchup was a real "duh!" moment. Why hadn't I thought of it before?

So I told dad early on before his plants had even taken off that this year, yes, I'd be very happy to take a few pounds of tomatoes off their hands for my kitchen experiment.

A few weeks ago, he called. Dad hardly ever calls. So when I saw the caller I.D., I nearly had a heart attack thinking something might be wrong. Instead, I chuckled as I realized he was simply calling to tell me he had harvested his first round of tomatoes and they were waiting for me.

"Yay!" I thought. "Homemade ketchup! Here I come!"

Of course, what better vehicle for my newly made ketchup but pomme frites?
Tips & Suggestions

Pre-chopping tomates helps with consistency issues later on. Use a spoon to scoop out some of the seeds and juices.
I collected the juices and seeds in a small bowl. Use it to flavor other foods. I used mine to make some Spanish Rice for the following night's meal.
    This slightly spicy, tangy homemade ketchup is easily going to replace the commercial variety I have been buying up to now. Yum! Thick, rich and totally customizable.
    Spicy Homemade Ketchup
    makes about 4 cups

    5 lbs tomatoes, chopped and seeded.
    3 red onions, rough chopped
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1 green bell pepper, rough chopped

    1 teaspoon ground ginger
    1 teaspoon white pepper
    2 teaspoons celery seeds
    1 teaspoon sea salt
    1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
    1 tsp sweet paprika
    2/3 cup apple cider vinegar

    1 tablespoon mustard seeds
    1 cinnamon stick
    2 bay leaves
    1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
    1 tablespoon whole cloves

    • wand blender or standard blender
    • cheesecloth
    • Fine mesh sieve or food mill

    1. Place tomatoes, onions, garlic and bell peppers in a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on medium low for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender stirring occasionally.
    2. Using a wand blender, puree the vegetables in the pot. If you don't have one, carefully, in batches if you have to, puree the vegetables in a blender returning to pot after each batch. 
    3. Add ginger, white pepper, celery seeds, salt, sugar, paprika and vinegar to tomato pot and stir well to combine. 
    4. Place mustard seeds, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, allspice and cloves in a cheesecloth. Tie together and add to the tomato pot. Simmer on low for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
    5. After 2 hours of cooking, remove cheesecloth, grab your sieve, large bowl and a wooden spoon. Place the sieve over the bowl and pour in the tomato mixture a cupful at a time. Use the back of the wood spoon to push as much of the liquid through the sieve as possible. Discard the solids (this mainly would be any seeds you missed and vegetable skins). Repeat until all the mixture has passed through the sieve. Note: If you have a food mill, use it in place of the sieve/spoon process. I don't have one so I improvised and it worked out well albeit a bit time-consuming.
    6. Return tomato mixture and cheesecloth to pot and simmer on low for another hour or until your ketchup has reached the consistency you want. Adjust salt to taste. Discard cheesecloth.
    7. Allow to cool completely before transferring ketchup to containers. I bought plastic condiment squeeze bottles from Smart & Final for mine but you can also jar them in mason jars or other tightly sealed glass containers. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 months or freeze for later use.
    I hope you enjoy your ketchup! My next condiment to attempt? Homemade mayonnaise. Anyone out there tried it? Suggestions? Share them with me in comments. 

    Until next time… 
    !Buen Provecho!