Making real ketchup is super simple and the results are delicious. Make your own once, and you may never go back to the store-bought stuff
It’s mid-winter and as usual we’re still sitting on something like 1,329 jars of preserved tomatoes from the summer. Not surprisingly, we’re always looking for new ways to use all these tomatoes before the new crop starts to come in late spring, so when we ran out of ketchup a couple weeks ago, I announced, “I’m going to make some ketchup!”
I didn’t actually make ketchup that day. We raided the packet drawer and squeezed enough ketchup for the meatloaf, but it didn’t stop me from thinking about making my own ketchup.
Fast forward a couple of days and a notification from Reddit’s vegetable gardening forum pops up on my phone that reads “First Batch of Ketchup for the Season.”
I’m thinking about making ketchup, Redditor @idlehanz88 is making ketchup. It must be a sign from the Internet tomato god. I need to make ketchup.
So I went and read a bunch of recipes in some old cookbooks and online and decided that all ketchup is basically a combination of tomatoes, onions, sugar, vinegar and some spices (up to 10 in some recipes).
Wanting to keep my first batch of ketchup simple, I stuck to the tomato and onion basics, but decided to wing it on the other ingredients based on taste. I didn’t want that sugary red stuff you get in the supermarket, but I also didn’t want something so overly spiced it tasted like minced pie with tomato, which a lot of complicated recipes seemed to lean toward.
In the end, I wound up with about 36 ounces of a tangy, tomatoey sauce that 1) turned out to be a really good sauce for all kinds of foods, from meatloaf to creamy salad dressing, and 2) my son, a self-declared ketchup expert, “didn’t suck” (high praise from him). He even took a bottle home.
How to make homemade ketchup
There’s tons of recipes on the Internets, so you’ll have no problem finding inspiration for your own blend. Here’s the one I made up on the fly using our stock of tomato preserves:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped into chunks
- 2 cloves of garlic chopped
- 1 quart jar of whole tomatoes
- 1 8-ounce jar of tomato paste (or a 12-ounce jar of puree)
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon ground mustard
- ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 whole cloves
- Kosher salt & ground black pepper to taste
- Heat your olive oil in a (non-aluminum) pot large enough to hold all your ingredients
- Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook until soft and slightly clear (don’t brown it).
- Add your tomatoes, brown sugar and vinegar, and put the pot on a low heat until about half of the water has cooked off
- Add your spices and continue cooking; make sure to check the flavor while it’s simmering so you can adjust your salt and pepper additions to taste
- Cook it down until it’s thick and saucy. (I was using preserves, so it took a couple hours for the water to cook off. It will take less time if you’re using canned tomatoes and tomato paste.)
- Use a stick or countertop blender to puree your sauce and then pour it through a fine through a strainer to remove any remaining lumps
- Pour your ketchup into clean jars, seal them and put them in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes to sterilize.
- Remove from the water bath and cool the jars. Ketchup is done!
You can store unopened ketchup like you do any other canned preserves; in a cool place out of direct sunlight. It should keep that way for at least a year. Keep your opened containers in the refrigerator. They’ll stay good for months that way.
Finally, you’ll find that homemade ketchup is way more flavorful than the store-bought stuff, so don’t limit its use to topping burgers and hotdogs. We’ve used it in lots of comfort foods that call for tomato sauce — chili, meatloaf, various casseroles, etc. — and it really punches the flavor up a notch or two.
Given how easy ketchup is to make and how many variations you can put on it, you may never go back to the old packaged stuff from the store again.