Last weeks of summer are the best moment to make your own ketchup, but if you consider it an easily copied and uncomplicated sauce, think again. For long years all the home-made specimens I tasted or tried to make were only distant and ridiculous wannabes, not even meriting to be labelled as “ketchup”. Accepting the superiority of commercial brands was not easy to accept by a passionate preserver like me, so when two years ago I was offered a huge batch of untreated, ripe tomatoes, the old dream of making my own ketchup returned. I started searching on internet, leafing through my cookery books… Finally, thanks to Jeffrey Steingarten and his fascinating “The Man Who Ate Everything” (one of the best food-related books I have ever read), I discovered a marvellous sauce which beats every single commercial brand and which is no longer a home-made copy, but the best ketchup in the world.
I have slightly modified the ingredients’ amounts because the original recipe was intended for ten pounds of tomatoes. The process is not complicated itself, but a bit fussy and long. The initial volume of tomato pulp and juice will reduce up to 80%, so this sauce is quite costly, unless you cultivate tomatoes or have access to very cheap ones. The tomatoes must be very ripe and ideally untreated or almost untreated. If the tomatoes’ quality is good, the result is so excellent, you will find it difficult to believe you have made it on your own. The flavour balances between the concentration of a fresh ripe tomato taste and a subtler version of good commercial ketchup. Once you have tasted your first batch, you will realise this sauce is too good to be served with just any ordinary sausage or meat and definitely not to every guest…
TIP: If your tomatoes are far from being perfectly ripe or are rather watery, I strongly advise the Indian style Tomato Chutney. The recipe gives amazing results even with ordinary tomatoes.
Preparation: around 2 hours
Special equipment: a food mill (a sieve and a spoon may be used instead, but it takes much longer)
Ingredients: (for 1 kg tomatoes, but the volume will reduce up to 80%)
1 kg tomatoes (about 2 lbs)
1 garlic clove chopped
1/2 medium onion chopped
70 ml (about 2,4 oz) cider vinegar (4,5%)
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon allspice berries
6 cm (about 2,4 in) cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
Chop roughly the tomatoes.
Put them in a pan, cover, cook over high heat 5-10 minutes, stirring until the chunks give off their juice.
Strain the juice, pressing gently to the sieve, so that the liquid goes through, but not the tomato pulp.
Add garlic, onion, spices and vinegar (not sugar!) to the liquid obtained by straining.
Cook over moderate heat until it becomes slightly syrupy (it will take 40 – 60 minutes).
In the meantime sieve the pulp or put it through a food mill (make sure the seeds and skins do not get into the pulp). Put aside.
Strain the syrupy liquid discarding all the spices, onion, garlic etc.
Pour it over the pulp, add the sugar and stir well.
Cook until you obtain the desired ketchup consistency (keeping in mind that hot ketchup is a bit more liquid than when it cools down).
Adjust the taste if necessary (some tomatoes need more sugar or more salt) and heat until the sugar is dissolved.
You can mix the sauce in a food processor if you judge the texture not smooth enough.
/At this point you can (after the ketchup has cooled down) either freeze it, or keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, or process it in the jars, as described below, and store it in your pantry for at least a year!/
Pour the ketchup, still hot, into sterilised jars. Cover with lids. Leave the jars to cool.
Place the cool jars into a big pan, bottom lined with an old kitchen towel folded in two (this will prevent the jars from breaking), cover up with hot – but not boiling- water to the level just below the lid. Bring to boil and keep on a very low heat, in simmering water, for around 20 minutes.
Stick on self-adhesive labels, write the name of the sauce and don’t forget to mark the date.