Homemade Ketchup: It May Actually be Worth All the Work

I have finally escaped from the grasp of 140 pounds of tomatoes.  Which, by the way, is too many for me to handle by myself. Please remind me of this next year when I am contemplating how many to buy.

They almost got the best of me, but I persevered and in the end I prevailed.

It was all very dramatic.

One of the things that I wanted to make with all my tomatoes was ketchup.  Pure, (relatively) wholesome, homemade ketchup.  I had never tasted homemade ketchup before, but I could only imagine that it tasted better than what you find in the grocery store.

Another plus to making ketchup is the recipe uses 24 pounds of tomatoes!  That should make a dent in my inventory!

I found most of the spices I needed at a local Amish store, but I still needed cheesecloth (to make a spice bag).  No problem.  Walmart should have that, right?  Wrong.  I looked everywhere in Wally World, but they don’t carry it.  When I asked a couple women customers in the kitchen area if they had ever seen it, they looked at me as if my head was made of cheese.  Something tells me they have never made a spice bag in their lives.  At least the guy stocking the barbecue sauce knew what I was talking about.  I congratulated him on at least knowing what it was.

At this point, I decided I would make my own.  My Mom was a nurse who worked in the Operating Room for many, many years.  In the OR they use cloths called lap sponges to, well, nevermind.  I have a small stash of unused, sterile lap sponges that I use for dish cloths and I thought I could use one of these in the place of cheesecloth.  First, I had to cut it into a smaller square.

Yes, this looks like it’s going to work!  Now to add the spices.  Some celery seeds, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks and whole allspice.

Gather up the corners, tie it all in a bow and voila!  A perfect spice bag!

The spice bag goes in a saucepan with 3 cups of cider vinegar.  Bring it to a boil over high heat.  Remove from heat and let stand for 25 minutes.  Discard spice bag… or leave it sitting nearby so you can enjoy the wonderful smell of the spices.  Mmm!

Here is where I ran into a little trouble with the recipe.  It says to put the tomatoes, onions and cayenne in “a large stainless steel saucepan.”  Well, I don’t know who has a saucepan large enough to fit all those tomatoes in it!  I had to divide them into two pots, over medium heat to help them get nice and smooshy so I could fit more in.

I boiled the tomato mixture for 20 minutes, then added the infused vinegar (splitting it between the pots).  Then I boiled the mixture another 30 minutes.  At this point, it had reduced enough that I could fit it all in one pot.

Now comes the really fun part.  Not really.

I have decided that I do not like food mills.  Or maybe I don’t like my mom’s food mill, which I borrowed from her.  Perhaps food mills made back in the day — in America, not China — work better than the ones sold today.  This one just seems to spin the tomatoes around and not really smoosh them and push the juice through the holes.  Working in batches, I first put the tomatoes in the food mill.

But there was a lot of liquid left and a lot of seeds made it through — who wants seeds in their ketchup?! — so I then used the back of a spoon to push the tomatoes through a fine-mesh sieve.

If I make ketchup again next year I will blanch and peel the tomatoes first.  Then instead of using a food mill I’ll try pureeing the mixture in a food processor.  Then it will be easier to push through the sieve.  This was a lot of work, but I got it done.

I added some sugar and salt to the liquid and brought it to a boil.  The recipe stated it would take about 45 minutes to reduce the volume by half, but that time was crazy wrong.  I boiled this for over two hours and it was still not thick enough!  By this time, though, it was midnight and I was nearing exhaustion.  I still had to get the jars of ketchup in the water bath canner, so I went ahead and canned it.

Now, as I open each jar of ketchup I will have to dip out some of the extra liquid on top (the thick stuff settles to the bottom of the jar) and simmer the rest in a saucepan for several minutes to thicken it up.  I did this a few days ago and it didn’t take too long.  Next year, though, I will start the ketchup in the morning and boil it until it is thick enough.

Despite the thinness issue, the ketchup is delicious!  I made onion rings to go with dinner a few nights ago and the ketchup was the perfect accompaniment.  So good!

As  I worked on making this ketchup, I wondered if I would ever make it again.  Once in a lifetime seemed like enough.  But after tasting it I realize that I will probably make it again next year.  It is that good.  I got eight pints of the stuff (less, really, since it still needs to reduce) and I know I am going to be rationing it to make it last.

If you want the recipe, you can find it here.  And if you decide to make some, I want to hear from you!  Well, I want to hear from you anyway, but especially if you make this ketchup!

Thanks for stopping by and listening to my Adventures in Tomatoes.  God bless you and have a wonderful day!

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2 responses to “Homemade Ketchup: It May Actually be Worth All the Work

  1. Thank you for sharing, I’ve been wanting to make ketchup. It’s been hard to decide if it’s really worth the effort, but it sounds like it might be.

    • Hey, if you have been wanting to make it, then I totally recommend going for it. It’s only one day out of your life, after all, and you will be so glad you did. 🙂 And when you do, I want you to come back here and tell me how much you love the flavor!

      Thanks for commenting. 🙂

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