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fall is in the air

Recipe: homemade ketchup

Still technically summer, I know… Despite the forecasted hot days this past week (80°F in the mountains is excessive, folks!), the recent afternoon thunderstorms have washed over us like clockwork every afternoon, cooling the air and recharging all living things. It’s delicious. It’s wonderful. And it’s the start of a cooling trend. We’ve seen those rogue aspen branches turning yellow in a sea of deep green. People catch sight of those and immediately think fall colors are here. They are not. But they will be. Fall approaches and well – WINTER IS COMING! But I’m trying not to get ahead of myself. Yes, even we winter-lovers milk the last days of summer for all she’s got.

visiting alpine lakes we haven’t seen before

hiking a new trail

jeremy on the continental divide

the view from on high

There is a precious time between Labor Day and the first big snowfall in the mountains when crowds disappear from trails, scrub turns brilliant red and gold, and you have to wear a warm fleece hat, a warm jacket, and gloves when you start hiking in the morning. The pika at high elevations are bouncing around gathering their stores for winter. Marmots waddle across alpine meadows, fat as they can be before hibernation. Adolescent ptarmigans strut about in their summer plummage, not knowing their feathers will turn a brilliant white for winter. And if you’re lucky, you might find a patch of ripe, sweet huckleberries at 11,000 feet.

or a straggler porcini

or two (or six…)

storm buildup on the divide (at pawnee pass)

the view south from pawnee pass

What you won’t find in the mountains are wild tomatoes, because it’s just too cold for those babies. As luck would have it, a short drive down to the flats puts you in tomatoland. I got a bazillion pounds of organic heirloom tomato seconds from Cure Organic Farm this summer. I canned tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, but I also reserved several pounds to tackle a project I’ve had on my list to try for years. Homemade ketchup.

ten pounds of heavenly flavor

tomatoes, cider vinegar, onion, garlic, peppercorns, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne, ginger, salt, sugar

Here’s my progression for ketchup: I started on Heinz because that was my favorite among the standard brands. Then, I switched to Trader Joe’s organic ketchup when I lived in California. But once I moved to Colorado, I became obsessed with some house-made ketchups at various local Boulder restaurants, namely The Kitchen (pair that ketchup with their amazing garlic fries). Food blogger friends have raved about homemade ketchup for years. It was time.

core the tomatoes


cook the tomatoes to get the juices moving

So many ketchup recipes exist out there. I settled on one that drew flavor from several components (spices, aromatics), but whose bulk comes from the luscious ripe tomatoes. There are some extra steps, but the results are well worth the effort. The diced tomatoes get a brief stint on high heat before straining the tomato juice from the tomato solids.

straining the juice from the cooked tomatoes

adding the spices and seasonings to the juice

pouring the cider vinegar

The tomato juices and other goodies get simmered down for 30 minutes to an hour. While that’s going on, the tomato solids get run through a food mill. I love my food mill. It separates seeds and skins from the essence of the tomatoes with much less effort than… any other way I know of. What you get is a nice thick tomatoey sauce.

putting the tomato solids through the food mill

and winding up with a sauce that resembles runny ketchup

place the sauce in a pan

Meanwhile, that other pot of tomato juices is ready to be dealt with. Strain the solids from the juice and combine the juice with the tomato sauce. At this point, add sugar to taste and start simmering that whole thing down to your desired consistency. Ketchup does become more viscous when it is cold, so keep that in mind. Taste it periodically and add more sugar to taste if necessary.

the juice has reduced down to about 2 cups

straining out the solids

adding sugar

it will look nice and thick when it is ready

store in a jar in the refrigerator

My yield was about a quart of ketchup. Thankfully, this stores well in the refrigerator for several weeks, so we can enjoy it into autumn. I’m not sure what the rules are on canning ketchup, but that might be a project for next summer. There is so much more freshness and tomato presence in this ketchup than anything you buy off a shelf. I liked the combination of flavors from the spices, although I might tweak them a little next time. Still, my first batch of homemade ketchup is the best ketchup I’ve ever tasted!

of course, we tried it with fries

Homemade Ketchup
[print recipe]
from Leite’s Culinaria

10 lbs. ripe red tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, medium dice
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or use white vinegar for a milder taste)
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 heaping tsp allspice berries
1 stick cinnamon
8 whole cloves
1/4 tsp ground cayenne
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 1/2 tbsps sea salt
6 tbsps sugar, plus more to taste

Use a large nonreactive stock pot to make the ketchup. A wide pot is best as the increased surface area will make the reduction process go faster. Place the tomatoes in the pot and cover with a lid. Set the heat to high and let the tomatoes cook until they release their liquid. Give it a stir from time to time and let it come to a boil. Remove from heat.

Strain all of the liquid into a medium saucepan to yield about 2 quarts. You can coax more liquid from the tomato solids by applying light pressure to the tomatoes, but keep the solids in the strainer for later use.

Place the rest of the ingredients except for the sugar in the pan with the tomato juice. Set the pan over medium high to high heat. Bring the liquid to a boil then reduce to an active simmer for 30 minutes to an hour until you have around 2 cups in volume of a thickened liquid.

While the tomato juice is reducing, run your reserved tomato solids through a food mill on the finest setting. The purpose is to get all of the tomato sauce separated from the seeds and skin (you can discard the seeds and skin). Pour the sauce (about a quart) into the pot you cooked the tomatoes in originally. Strain all of the tomato syrup into the pan with the tomato sauce. Discard the solids. Add the sugar, give it a good stir, and bring the contents to a simmer. Maintain the simmer and stir to prevent any burning. Reduce to approximately 1 quart in volume or until the ketchup achieves your preferred thickness. Taste and adjust sugar accordingly. Cool to room temperature. Store in air-tight containers and refrigerate. Should be good for several weeks. Makes 1 quart.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

diced tomatoes (canning) tomato sauce (canning) roasted cherry tomatoes with mint tomato jam

12 nibbles at “fall is in the air”

  1. Linda says:

    I made ketchup once a long time ago, when I was in my 20s, and my kids were little. Now I’m in my 60s and some of the “kids” are grandparents…… Maybe it’s time to try again…lol. I do remember that it was very very good, and the kids liked it, too.

  2. Pey-Lih says:

    Oh WOW! You have a recipe for ketchup! lol! This makes me want to have a bag of fries. I bet those are made from scratch too?

  3. Ouida Lampert says:

    Homemade ketchup is wonderful. I make it and freeze it in 1 cup measures because I never want to be without it.

    If you make it again, and if you want to boost your tomato-ness, you might try a trick from Joel at Well Preserved. Dehydrate those skins and seeds that you take from the tomatoes. Grind them up into tomato powder, and add it back in at the end. The tomato powder works for many things and is a bonus product.

    Thanks for sharing all that you do.

  4. jill says:

    You never cease to amaze me!

  5. Barbara says:

    Coincidentally, I made ketchup for the first time yesterday. When all was said and done, my 9 pounds of tomatoes yielded exactly 2 half pint jars of ketchup! I plan to consume them very slowly…

  6. Marcy says:

    I use to get on the continental divide trail close to Silverton and always thought it would be great to do a backpacking trip on. I hope you get to do it.

  7. Mrs Ergül says:

    How awesome!! More a chili dip girl than a ketchup one but this does look very good! One made with fresh tomatoes over the store-bought ones any day!

  8. says:

    What a trip! Made my day.

  9. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    That is definitely ketchup to be savored. I have always wanted to make it, but I guess I’ll need to grow my own tomatoes to make it cost effective. Or I’ll just splurge. Definitely splurge. I’m a ketchup gal!

  10. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    funny because homemade ketchup has been on my radar lately even though it has been a tough summer for tomatoes here.

    thanks for the recipe!

  11. farmerpam says:

    Ketchup was on my list too! The kids are nervous, they don’t want anything too exotic when it comes to ketchup. I’ve already canned sauce, salsa, tomato juice, chopped tomatoes and green tomato salsa. Hoping this will be the ketchup year, but the corn’s just about ready and needs attention, and the basil, and the beans and……..hope to try your recipe, thanks!

  12. jenyu says:

    Linda – yes, homemade ketchup is a world apart from store bought.

    Pey-Lih – ah no, the fries were purchased. I hate frying things if I can avoid it :)

    Ouida Lampert – Nice to know you can freeze it! A friend of mine likes to save the skins and seeds for that very purpose. Good to know :)

    jill – pshawwwwww!

    Barbara – isn’t it wonderful, though?

    Marcy – eventually… but not while Kaweah is around. We want to make sure she’s well cared for into her final days.

    Mrs. Ergül – I too like chili dip, but this ketchup may change your mind :)

    tea-time – thanks.

    Abbe – try to get your hands on tomato seconds! They’re cheaper and you won’t feel so bad about making them into ketchup!

    Rocky Mountain Woman – I’ve heard the tomatoes have had a hard time. Hoping you get at least a few!

    farmerpam – sheesh! Why aren’t I sitting in your garden eating all your vegetables?? :)

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