And speaking of “before it’s gone for good“…here’s an end-of-summer project.
Though it seems a little odd, we’re in the height of the tomato season here in the Bay Area. We all associate the start of the school year with autumn, but we usually find ourselves tolerating the hottest days of the summer in mid- September. So what did I do? I made ketchup.
Fair warning now: this project took me almost 4 hours from the very start, until the jars were canned in a boiling water bath. Of course, you don’t have to can them. You could just fill the jars with ketchup and place them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.
Also, I think that next time I’ll use a little less ginger, and a little less sugar. But here’s a good thing to remember: when you’re cooking something that will be eaten cold or at room temperature, (ice cream, jam, ketchup, etc) it needs to be seasoned more heavily than something that will be eaten hot. Generally things like salt and sugar are the main culprits. To clarify, a jam that seems perfectly sweet when you’re cooking it will seem not sweet enough when it’s cooled. It’s really a judgement call.
And before you start cooking, go taste some of the commercially-made ketchup in your fridge. Have you ever tasted ketchup and really thought about the flavor? I hadn’t! Ketchup has always just been ketchup! But taste it and notice how sweet it is, how sour it is, the clove/cinnamon notes…interesting huh?
Now keep in mind, you’re not trying to replicate that ketchup! You’re trying to make something better and different. If you were trying to replicate the commercial stuff, what would be the point??? My point is that ketchup is a condiment made with tomatoes that have been cooked down for a long time, and flavored with various aromatics, and there can be tons of variations. This is just one variation, and aside from the few things that I’ll change next time around, I quite like it.
Ketchup adapted from Jamie Oliver’s TV show, Jamie at Home
I used a 10 quart pot. Use the largest-diameter pot you have, as the surface area will make evaporation-process go more quickly.
- 4 medium onions, roughly diced
- 4 ribs celery, roughly chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 oz ginger root
- 3 mildly spicy jalapenos
- 3 teaspoons fennel seed, ground
- 3 teaspoons coriander seed, ground
- 4 whole cloves, ground
- 10 pounds ripe, red tomatoes, roughly cut into large chunks
- 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 10-1/2 ounces brown sugar (I didn’t measure out the cups because brown sugar packs down differently with different people)
- 2 Tablespoons pure olive oil
Place the oil in large pot. Sweat onion, celery, garlic, ginger, and jalapeno down over medium heat with the lid on, until partially tender. Add the fennel, coriander, cloves. Stir every now and then until completely soft.
Add the tomatoes and salt. Cook over medium heat without the lid for about 35-45 minutes, or until all the vegetables are fully cooked and tender.
**CAREFULLY blend in a kitchen blender in batches. Pour the puree through a mesh strainer or sieve set over a large bowl, pushing the pulp through with a rubber spatula. This yielded me about 6 quarts of puree, though yours may vary depending upon the juiciness of your tomatoes.
Wash the large pot, and pour the puree back into the same, clean, large pot. Add the vinegar and sugar. Over medium heat, begin to reduce the puree, stirring the bottom with a rubber spatula every few minutes so that it won’t stick. As the volume reduces, you’ll need to turn down the heat so that it won’t spatter as much. You may want to use gloves as you stir since the spatters are hot!
Keep stirring and scraping the sides and bottom with the spatula. Reduce until very thick. To determine how thick the ketchup will be once it cools, you can place a small plate in the freezer and spoon a little bit of ketchup onto the plate. The plate instantly cools the sample, making it easier for you to decide if you’d like it thicker, or not.
Carefully ladle into sterilized jars and either process in a boiling water bath, or freeze. Yields about 9 cups of ketchup.
**Blending hot liquids in a blender can be dangerous. Either let the mixture cool slightly before blending, OR fill the blender only 1/3 of the way full, and leave a steam vent in the lid as you blend it. To leave a steam vent, place the blender lid on the blender, but leave the lid’s centerpiece cock-eyed. Fold a heavy duty kitchen towel and hold it over the lid and steam vent as you pulse the blender a few times. Pulse, pulse, pulse, then leave it on high until completely pureed.
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