29 August 2010

Homemade, Small Batch Ketchup

Tomatoes are everywhere right now, and I'm loving it. I've been canning them for the past few weeks. Whole tomatoes. Crushed tomatoes. Salsas. I'll post more about some of these later.

For this post, I want to focus on ketchup, which I always assumed was a magical condiment that was impossible to make at home. Silly me! Like pretty much everything else I once ate in processed form, ketchup is easy to make and fun to experiment with.

Just as we were about to run out of our store-bought ketchup, Julia of What Julia Ate posted her recipe for the Tigress Can Jam. I don't own a slow cooker, so I took parts of her recipe, parts of the Joy of Cooking recipe that she modified, and parts from the Ball Blue Book. Since I didn't have nearly the amount of tomatoes any of these recipes called for, I had to do some calculations to create my own small batch. So, here it is:

Small batch ketchup
(yields 4 half pints)

tomatoes - 6 lbs.
1 red bell pepper
1 large onion
dark brown sugar - 1/4 cup
1 spice sack (I bought a pack of 10 at a local kitchen store) filled with the following:
- 1/2 of a cinnamon stick
- mustard seed - 3/4 tsp
- whole allspice - 1 tsp
- celery seed - 1 tsp
- 1 bay leaf
- black peppercorns - 1 tsp
- 1 peeled clove of garlic
salt - 1 tsp
paprika - 1 tsp
cider vinegar - 2/3 cup

As you're making this, stir it up every now and then to prevent scorching and sticking.
1. Peel, core, and chop tomatoes. (To make peeling easy, dip the tomatoes into boiling water for about 30 seconds and then into ice water.) Drain excess water from the entire batch.
2. Throw the chopped tomatoes, diced onion, and diced pepper into a non-reactive pot and begin cooking. Once they soften, use an immersion blender to puree. Alternately, you can throw the lot into a food mill or sieve, but, like Julia, I opted to keep the seeds.
3. Add the brown sugar to the mix. Stir and keep simmering.
4. Let it cook for, oh, maybe 5 minutes and then add the spice sack.

(The mixture will become nice and thick. Keep the spice sack submerged, but make sure you can easily grab the strings, as I'm doing here.)

5. Cook until the entire mixture is reduced by half.
6. Remove spice sack and add the cider vinegar. Blend well and let cook for another 10 minutes.
7. Fill your jars, leaving 1/2" of head space, and process in a water bath. I saw recipes that suggest either 10 or 15 minutes to process. I decided to strike a balance and go for 12.5 minutes, but process for 15 if you want to feel more secure. (Covering my ass: It's always a good idea to check the USDA recommendations.)

My outcome was a surprisingly delicious ketchup - sweet, fresh, and beautiful-looking.

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday.


  1. I have not tried making my own ketchup yet, but I have saved a few recipes (your included). Perhaps this will be my next tomato project.

  2. Let me know how it goes!

    I look forward to perusing through your blog, too -- the pictures look wonderful. :)

  3. Jenni, I love the new blog design and title! And your profile is great too. xo, Merrill PS - I just added domesticefforts to my reader. Thanks for making that so easy.

  4. Love the small batch! The Joy of Cooking one was huge! It's nice to see a scaled down recipe.

  5. thanks Julia! I find I often have to scale down canning recipes since I never have the amount of fruit/vegetables needed. Maybe if my fantasy garden ever becomes reality..... :)