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homemade ketchup

January 4, 2009

ketchupWe ran out of ketchup today, and this was a catastrophe because my five year old needs it for his mandatory  lunch of a grilled cheese sandwich.  That he eats.  Every.  Single. Day.

I had taken a little vow not to go for groceries until Monday, to see if I could cut back on our grocery bill by not showing up at the store every day.  (And picking up extra items.  Which I may or may not need).  Besides, it is has been -33 outside (that’s -27 F for my American friends), so staying home seemed like a good option. 

Of course, not shopping every day or every second day contradicts my eat fresh mantra, and we end up digging chicken burgers out of the freezer.  But in the winter, most fresh items keep for a while – like carrots, potatoes and squash, and besides, I have loads of roast chicken leftovers to draw from.

Anyhow.  The ketchup problem.  The new Saveur magazine showed up, and what do you know – the issue is dedicated to Home Cooking.   That’s what I do!  In fact, that’s what we all do, in one fashion or another.

Saveur has little articles on 100 different things of interest to home cooks, including my new Le Creuset French Oven, eGullet (which I joined, but I’m wary of message boards), cookbooks, Paul Newman and yes, homemade ketchup. 

High Level Diner is a restaurant in Edmonton by the university that has the best homemade ketchup on the planet – it is a little bit chunky, a little bit spicy.   I believe their recipe is top secret because I cannot find it anywhere.  My homemade ketchup did not taste anything like theirs.

Instead, it was both spicy and sweet.  It was pale red in colour and chunky and seedy.  It had more of a relish texture.  It did not taste like conventional ketchup either, but that can be a good thing.   Tomatoes in the grocery store this time of year are really rotten.  So here’s something practical to do with them.  Plus, the ketchup would be really tasty with roasted oven fries.  But use Rachel’s recipe for the fries, not mine!

Homemade Ketchup
-adapted from Saveur Magazine

4 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon whole allspice
2 pounds of tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
5 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 red onion, chopped
1 red chili, deseeded and chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced

Wrap cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, chile flakes and allspice in a cheesecloth. 

(I did not have a cheesecloth.  After googling ‘cheesecloth substitute’ and discarding the coffee filter and old sock ideas, I put the cloves, allspice, celery seeds and chile flakes in a tea leaf ball.  Then threw in the cinnamon stick and bay leaf and fished them out before blending).

Put the rest of the ingredients and the spices in a pot.  Simmer, stirring frequently, for 40 minutes. 

I like chunky ketchup, so I took out the spice ball, cinnamon stick and bay leaf, and used a hand blender to blend the mixture up, right in the saucepan.  (If you want it smooth, strain the mixture first and then blend it in the blender).   I waited until it had cooled down so I wouldn’t have an other Squash Soup incident

Then cook it another 30 minutes and season with salt, sugar, vinegar to your taste.  Add a bit of chicken stock if it is getting too thick.  Cool and store in a sealed container for up to 3 weeks in the fridge.

ps:  My five year old didn’t like it.  Not Heinzy enough for him.  Sigh.

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