Jun 16, 2010

Homemade Ketchup

The other day I happened upon a documentary film about a couple that had lived on a houseboat in the Atchafalaya Basin of Louisiana, and it was really interesting. They were living a sustainable lifestyle in the wild, and the pictures are just beautiful.

The woman of the couple, named Gwen Carpenter, was herself very beautiful, and somehow adds to the romance of this story. They both worked hard gardening and fishing, and they would make some of their tomato harvest into homemade ketchup. They mention this in the movie, and I guess it's one of the most-asked questions about the film, so Gwen was kind enough to post the recipe. I've copied it below so I'll be able to find it again!

I followed the recipe pretty closely, but started out with about a third of the sugar called for. It was delicious! The flavor of the spices came through and tasted wonderful. Could more sugar have made it MORE delicious? I don't know, I guess I'll have to make another batch and give it a try...

Better Than Bought Ketchup
courtesy of Gwen Carpenter Roland
(makes about one cup)

1 quart cored and chopped tomatoes, unpeeled
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped sweet pepper such as bell pepper or banana pepper
1 clove of garlic
½ tsp celery seed *
¼ tsp whole allspice *
¼ tsp mustard seed *
1/3 cup light brown sugar, more if you like sweeter ketchup
½ tsp. salt
¾ tsp paprika
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

Stir the chopped tomatoes, onion, peppers and garlic in a non-reactive pot over high heat until they start to boil. Tie allspice, mustard seed and celery seed together in a bit of cheesecloth or other thin cloth to make a bouquet. Drop the bouquet into the pot of vegetables, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until soft, about 20 minutes.
Mash the vegetables through a sieve if you want smooth ketchup. Calvin and I made such large quantities we didn’t bother with sieving, but these days I push the soft vegetables through a cone-shaped fruit sieve with a wooden mallet. A colander with small holes will also work. Sometimes, before sieving the softened vegetables, I whiz through them with a hand-held blender in order to extract more pulp. There’s a lot of room for individuality in ketchup making.

Return the sieved vegetables and bundle of whole spices to the pot. Add the sugar, salt the remaining spices and vinegar. Bring to a boil on high heat, uncovered, then reduce to medium heat. It will scorch faster than a hen can snatch a fly, so don’t wander off. Some recipes say to cook on low heat at this stage, but I prefer medium for a quicker cook off and brighter flavor. Stand there and stir it until it is almost as thick as you like it, about 25 minutes. It will thicken more as it cools.

Pour into a clean glass container with a lid. It will keep months in the refrigerator but if you make large quantities, process jars in boiling water for 15 minutes.

* If you will be pressing through a very fine sieve, skip the cheesecloth and just add the seeds to the vegetable mix

Multiply amounts depending on how many tomatoes you have. Larger quantities require longer cooking time. An uncovered crockpot can be used to reduce the liquid for larger amounts. Adjust seasonings and sugar to your own taste.

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