May 4, 2014

Make It At Home : Tomato Ketchup

I
know, I know, it’s another tomato tale! There’s no particular reason for me to go tomato crazy because it’s not like they’re going out of season and the world isn’t coming to an end either. What else can I say other than I keep seeing really good tomatoes at my market, and I end up coming home with more than I can use in my regular cooking.
My husband loves tomatoes any which way and my daughter will avoid them if she can, especially if she can see them in whatever I have cooked in which case she will neatly pick them out. She does like tomatoes in certain things like my Marinara sauce and this cooked Chutney and that’s because I purée the tomatoes before I make them. The exception to this rule is Oven Dried Tomatoes.
 

 
This time, I decided to turn my latest batch of tomatoes into Ketchup. We’re not great fans of Ketchup really, except as an occasional accompaniment to potato fries or wedges, samosas and the like. A bottle of store bought Ketchup will easily sit in my fridge for about 3 months before it gets used up, and more often than not I tend to add to it something else I’m cooking to finish it off.
However, it seemed a good thing to do, make Tomato Ketchup at home I mean. I had plenty of tomatoes on hand, making ketchup wasn’t going to be too much active work, and home-made stuff almost always tastes better than stuff off the store shelf unless your taste buds are so addicted to the bottled variety.
What’s a burger and French fries without Tomato Ketchup on the side?
While I like Ketchup with burgers, I am perhaps one of the minority (anybody else out there others like me?) who actually prefers their French fries without the Ketchup. For me, the mild flavour of salt with the crunchy but soft texture is all it takes to thoroughly enjoy fries.
My sister is (at least, she was when we were younger) at the other end of the ketchup spectrum and would whole heartedly douse whatever food the ketchup came along with, and finish it off with apparent enjoyment. I say “apparent” because though I know she loved ketchup on her food, I could never understand how she could love it so much!



 
Ketchup is thought have its origins in pickles from South East Asia. As odd as that sounds, the idea for Ketchup originated from the fermented brine that was used to pickle fish by the Chinese and Malays. They would use the brine as dipping sauces and the Chinese called it “Ke-tsiap” while the Malays/ Indonesians called it “Kecap”.
The British brought this idea home in the 1600s where it caught on among the more affluent, who started serving brine from pickled walnuts, oysters, mushrooms, lemons, etc and served it as condiments. This condiment, of a thin and watery consistency, was called “Catsup” and sometimes was flavoured with vinegar or sugar.
This idea then travelled to the American colonies and somewhere in the mid-nineteenth century started being made with tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt, cayenne and cinnamon. Then in the 1870s, Heinz tweaked the traditional Ketchup recipes developed and marketed a thick Tomato Ketchup that was made with ripe tomatoes, a whole lot more vinegar, sugar, salt, onion and spices that was here to stay and now defines what a Tomato Ketchup should be.



 
If you’re interested in the detailed history of what eventually turned out to be the Tomato Ketchup we know, or maybe the story behind the Heinz Tomato Ketchup, then just click on the respective links.
I guess it’s a lot easier to pick up a couple of bottles of Ketchup of the store shelf than make your own. To my mind though, it’s not all that much more effort to make some of your own, and this isn’t some kind of make-it-from-scratch snobbery talking. I like the taste of my home-made Tomato Ketchup much better than the bottled variety, my husband thought it was pretty good too. Our daughter pronounced it “quite nice, but I think I’ll have some of the store bought one on my French fries!”

So it’s really all about what you prefer, and if that should lean towards the home-made variety you could try this recipe. Do feel free to adjust the sugar and seasonings to your taste.
You can also add other vegetables to make a Jamie Oliver style Ketchup which though non-traditional could be to your taste, or maybe one with soy sauce like Nigella does, or even this spicy version recommended by the New York Times!

Tomato Ketchup/ Sauce
 

Ingredients:

2 kgs ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 medium sized onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2” piece ginger, chopped
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup tomato purée
1/4 cup dark brown sugar (adjust to taste)
1/4 cup cider vinegar (white vinegar is also fine)
Salt to taste
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp allspice (optional)
 

Method:

Put the chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, bay leaves, tomato purée, brown sugar and vinegar in a large saucepan on medium heat. Stir well and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat and let this simmer until the tomatoes are done and mushy, and the whole thing is somewhat thick in consistency. Remember to keep stirring occasionally in between.  
 
 
Now add the spices and the salt, adjusting to suit your taste, and cook till the sauce is the consistency of Ketchup. Let it cool. Blend the sauce into a very smooth purée with a hand blender or in the food processor.

Strain the Ketchup through a fine mesh and transfer to sterilized bottles or jars. I chose not strain my Ketchup because it was quite smooth after I blended it, though it wasn’t as fine as store bought Ketchup.
This Tomato Ketchup should keep in the refrigerator for about a month. This recipe makes 2 medium sized bottles of homemade Tomato Ketchup.

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