I'm a ketchup lover. I'll admit it. I am not ashamed. And because I love ketchup so much, I started several years ago to attempt to make homemade ketchup that was palatable. I studied recipes and studied recipes, and then I cooked and stirred and cooked and stirred. Some of what I made was all right, and on a good day it might have been considered palatable, but a sizeable portion of what I produced made its way back to the garden in a dark, brownish red, and thoroughly unappetizing new version of compost. I was sort of in a quest-for-the-Holy-Grail-of-ketchup-recipes mode during each tomato season that amounted to anything.
Enter sister-in-law Susan, who keeps me supplied with a steady stream of fascinating, unique, and often unconventional cookbooks. Susan gave me a copy of Cooking with the Horse and Buggy People, the first in a pair of cookbooks by that name (ISBN 1-890050-16-4). In it I found a recipe entitled "Heinz Catsup" which was submitted by a Mrs. Henry M. Troyer. Despite the fact that spelling the word "ketchup" c-a-t-s-u-p is one of my biggest pet peeves, I gave the recipe a try, and my search for the perfect homemade ketchup recipe came to a happy end. I'll be the first to say that the end product is not exactly like the beautiful crimson nectar that pours forth from the Heinz bottle, but it's close enough for me.
The recipe calls for a peck of tomatoes and three large onions. I don't have a peck basket, but I have found that if I fill my 16-quart stock pot with tomatoes and then slice the three large onions into it, everything comes out just fine. I have used several different varieties of tomatoes, but my preference is Romas. Gently cook the tomatoes and onions until the onions are soft. We find that this process takes over an hour. Stir frequently to make sure that it is not scorching; it is particularly vulnerable to doing so at the beginning of the cooking time.
|Running the cooked tomato and onion mixture through the mill.|
|Press as much of the pulp from the tomatoes and onions through|
the mill as possible because that is the part that you end up saving.
When you are finished running the tomato mixture through the food mill, you will have a large bowl of thin tomato juice.
At this point, you want to line another large bowl with a cloth bag. We use an old t-shirt of mine. The neck and sleeves have been cut off, and we tie the cut end shut with cooking twine. You then poor the tomato juice into the bag.
|Only the first few scoops of tomatoe juice are in the bag in this picture.|
|The bag of tomato juice hanging from the clothes line|
which is above our Jotul heating stove. We used to be
able to hang the bag in the kitchen, but our remodeling job
prevents that at the moment.
|Drained tomato and onion pulp. It looks a lot like raw hamburger,|
To the drained pulp, you now add the following:
|The ketchup coming to a boil with the cloth bag of spices in it.|
|Two batches of ketchup boiling away in the water |
bath canner. Note the splashes of ketchup on the
warming oven. This is why I mentioned that it can
be a bit messy.
I pushed the pencil on this recipe a few years ago to see whether it was at all economical to make your own ketchup. The result was that the cost to make the ketchup was so close to the cost of purchasing ketchup that if I didn't economize on canning lids by using two quart jars instead of four pint jars, my homemade ketchup was more expensive. Of course, many people would say that there is a great deal of value in knowing exactly what went into your bottle of ketchup, so the penny pinching becomes less important.
As always, I have to point out the efficiency of using a woodburning cookstove. While a pot of the tomato and onion mixture was boiling on the cookstove, we were also cooking a batch of salsa and baking a chicken casserole as well as heating water in the boiler and the reservoir. One small fire can do so much when you have a cookstove! With conventional appliances, we would have had four heating elements or gas burners going to accomplish these tasks. As it was, we had energy to spare.
|Ketchup, salsa, and a casserole cooking on Marjorie the Margin Gem|
while she also heats our domestic hot water.