One of the biggest makeovers our pantry got when Sean had to switch around his diet was getting rid of all our condiments. Pickles, flavoured mustards, relish – we were alarmed by how many of our favourite things contained high fructose corn syrup, heaps of sugar and several unpronounceable ingredients. As we handed the bottles over to friends and family (who were cautioned about the consequences of certain ingredients) we started to wonder whether a burger would ever taste as good again.
Surprisingly, we did fine after hunting down some substitutes or doing without a few altogether. But the one thing we couldn’t replace – and constantly craved – was ketchup. Sean loves ketchup, like a kid likes chocolate, and this led us on a wild goose chase searching for a replacement. All versions were made with sugar or high fructose corn syrup so for the past four and a half years the chalk line around the ketchup bottle has remained unfilled. Yes, that’s how long it took me to realise we could make our own version at home.
With a bounty of fresh tomatoes at the farmer’s market we decided it was time to put some tangy goodness back into our lives. Unfortunately, we don’t have a scale or a food processor so I had to eyeball the quantities and leave the ketchup chunky, almost like a relish. I was thrilled with the result. The balance of agave sweetness and sharp vinegar was perfect and the freshness of the celery seeds and allspice gave the ketchup a real earthiness. I added some dried chilli flakes and paprika as well to up the antioxidant value along with the cinnamon, garlic and onion.
This was not just a healthier version; it was almost near identical to a bottled variety. Now only if we had an immersion blender to puree it, I could have fooled Sean it was store bought (not that it stopped him from eating it). It took less than two hours and now we have a handsome jar to turn to whenever we need some flavour enhancement. I see a lot of oven fries being made in the near future. Can you blame us? We have over four years of ketchup loving to make up for.
Home-made Tomato Ketchup
11 tomatoes ( I used 8 large and 3 small tomatoes)
2 large white onions, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp all-spice
1 tsp black pepper corns
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
½ cup agave syrup
½ cup red wine vinegar (most recipes online recommend apple cider, which would probably work just as well)
Bring a casserole of water to the boil. Make a small cross slit on the bottom of each tomato. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water and blanch for no more than five minutes.
Drain tomatoes. Peel off the skin, chop and place in a clean casserole along with the onion and garlic. It will look quite insipid at this point. Bring the tomatoes to a boil and then lower the heat and continue to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until the water had reduced considerably and the mixture is thick and pulpy.
If you have a food processor, blend the mix until completely pulverised. Return to the casserole with the spices, agave and vinegar. The colour will now take on a deeper red. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat so that it simmers. Let it continue to bubble for another half an hour to 45 minutes, until the mixture reduces and reaches the consistency of ketchup.
Taste to determine whether you need more sweetness or sourness and add more agave or vinegar accordingly. Put into a glass bottle and store in the fridge.