Make your own ketchup, and you will live to regret it. Why? Because your culinary standards will be raised to a delicious new level, and you will never again want to taste commercial ketchup, no matter how cheap and convenient it might be. Furthermore, you’ll become a ketchup snob. And ketchup snobs are the worst snobs of all.
Actually, commercial ketchup is little more than tomato-flavored corn syrup. If you don’t believe me, just check the label of the most famous ketchup in the world. It’s the brand that starts with an H and ends with a z.
Homemade ketchup — at least as I produce it — has a sophisticated, garden-fresh taste. It’s perfect for hamburgers, hotdogs, and French fries. Heck, it even makes a terrific pizza sauce.
And guess what? Homemade ketchup is surprisingly easy to make. Here’s my version:
To start, grab a red bell pepper, an onion, and 4 fat cloves of garlic…
And roughly chop them.
Put the red pepper and onion in a heavy-bottomed pot, and drizzle them with 2 tablespoons of neutral vegetable oil. Set the pot over medium-low heat. Then cover the pot, and let the veggies “sweat” until soft — 8-10 minutes.
Add the garlic, and saute just until fragrant — about 1 minute.
Then add 1 generous tablespoon of tomato paste…
And one 28-ounce can of plum or “paste” tomatoes. I like to chop the tomatoes, just a little, or mash them with a potato masher to insure speedy cooking.
Note: If you’d like to use fresh tomatoes from your garden, who’s going to stop you? Not me! Paste tomatoes, such as ‘San Marzano,’ are the best tomatoes for ketchup, but you can use any variety you like or happen to have on hand.
Now add 1/4 cup ordinary apple cider vinegar…
And 1/3 cup of brown sugar (light or dark). You could add more sugar for a sweeter ketchup. Just don’t add corn syrup, or you’ll end up with something that resembles the inferior store-bought product.
Not that I have anything against corn syrup. It’s a valuable component of certain homemade candies and cake frostings. Ketchup, for me, is not a dessert.
Now add some dry mustard and chili powder — a 1/2 teaspoon of each…
And 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon, allspice, and ground cloves. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, too.
Bring the works to a simmer, and then lower the heat, partially cover the pot, and cook quietly until the sauce thickens — 55 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.
Then ladle the sauce into a blender, and puree at high speed until perfectly smooth.
Now test the ketchup. Is it too thin for your liking? Add more tomato paste (1 or 2 tablespoons, or possibly more) and blend again, until you achieve the viscosity of your dreams.
This next step is very important: Refrigerate the sauce for at least 4 hours. The flavors will intensify rather dramatically during their cold sojourn.
For the real taste-test, put some ketchup in a small bowl…
And surround it with crispy French fries.
One taste, and you’ll become a ketchup snob, too.
I’m so sorry for you.
But I’m very, very happy for your taste-buds!
Plan to try this recipe — or are you hopelessly hooked on Heinz? Post your thoughts in the comments section below!
Here’s the printable: