Homemade Ketchup


My relationship with America’s favorite condiment is long and complicated—and, for that matter, so is ketchup’s culinary history.

As summer approaches and sales of the country’s best-selling condiment head for their cookout-fueled annual peak, it seems as good a time as any to publicly question my first and longest culinary obsession: ketchup. I’m a sucker for the stuff—when I eat a burger and fries I’m likely to empty three-quarters of whatever ketchup bottle is on the table—but recently, for health reasons and matters of food politics, I started to think twice about my compulsive ketchup consumption. And as I did, I discovered a whole world of ketchup beyond the brick-red sauce that I know and love.

Heinz controls 60 percent of the ketchup market in this country (as well as 40 percent of the proprietary seed market for tomatoes grown specifically for processing). For most Americans, Heinz is to ketchup as Kleenex is to facial tissue—it’s the household name, perhaps even the platonic ideal. When Jeffery Steingarten (I love that guy!) set out on an epic ketchup tasting for his 1992 article “Playing Ketchup,” the categories he created to judge each product were “Worse than Heinz,” “Heinz,” “Better than Heinz,” and “Not Really Ketchup.” I certainly understand this logic; the flavor of classic Heinz is always what I’m expecting when I pour ketchup on anything, and to me it’s still the best-tasting bottled variety out there. But it’s not the go-to in my house anymore. To avoid the combination of high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup found in the current classic recipe, I’ve made the subtle shift to homemade ketchup.

I’m always genuinely excited to see homemade ketchup on a menu—because when the homemade stuff is good, it’s really good. The single best tomato ketchup in my memory (and the one that first introduced me to the concept of homemade ketchup) was a clove-spiced, barbecue-inspired version served up on near-perfect fries, dusted with Montreal steak seasoning. I’ve had other homemade varieties since then, but making ketchup from scratch is still not nearly as common as it should be.  Some ketchups still hold small audiences in other countries, and recipes for ketchup varieties beyond tomato still pop up every so often in magazines, online, and on menus. But as we roll through 2014, there is no better time for ketchup’s flavorful past to return. More people are cooking at home and the nation’s newfound interest in frugality has spurred a rise in preserving and pickling.  So try pairing some cranberry ketchup with a turkey burger, or put grape ketchup on your scrambled eggs, or dip some lamb in cucumber ketchup—because, frankly, if we’re making things like maple-bacon lollipops, why shouldn’t we get creative with ketchup?
Here are a couple of recipes to get you started!

Homemade Ketchup

Making your own ketchup may seem a bit over-the-top, but it’s worth it. It’s easy to do, and homemade is so much more delicious than supermarket varieties, which are loaded with corn syrup.
  • 1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in purée
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Purée tomatoes (with purée from can) in a blender until smooth.
  • Cook onion in oil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add puréed tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, and salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until very thick, about 1 hour (stir more frequently toward end of cooking to prevent scorching).
  • Purée ketchup in 2 batches in blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Chill, covered, at least 2 hours (for flavors to develop).
CHEF’S NOTE: Ketchup can be chilled up to 3 weeks.



Cranberry Ketchup

Serve this fruity ketchup with roast duck or chicken, or on a lamb or turkey burger. You can also combine it with mayonnaise, then use it in a turkey sandwich.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (not thawed; 1 lb)
  • 1 (2-by 1/2-inch) strip fresh orange zest
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablspoons packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Simmer onion in water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, uncovered, until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add cranberries and zest and simmer, uncovered, until berries are collapsed, about 10 minutes. Discard zest. Purée berries in a food processor, then force through a large sieve into saucepan and discard solids.
  • Stir in sugars, five-spice powder, and salt and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, then cool completely.
CHEF’S NOTE: Cranberry ketchup keeps, chilled in an airtight container, 1 month.


Source: Gourmet Magazine and Adam Houghtaling