Your own ketchup

Did you know that ketchup (or catsup to some) originally referred to any of a variety of table sauces made from items as diverse as mushrooms, oysters, and walnuts? It apparently originated in the far east where, in present-day Malaysia it was called kecap (pronounced kaychap). It was brought back to Europe and the American colonies by English explorers. Today, of course, ketchup pretty much always refers to a sweet/sour tomato sauce that is consumed by the lake-full on French fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, and what have you. And guess what? You do not have to limit yourself to the store-bought kind.

A lot of people give me a puzzled look when I suggest home-made ketchup – why bother when you can get perfectly good ketchup in the store? For one thing, you can make it additive free (you don’t really think that commercial ketchup is that red naturally, do you?). For another, you can tweak the recipe to get just what you want – less salty, more tartness, and so on. My version gets a subtle but delicious difference from the use of Thai fish sauce. This recipe makes about 3 cups. Can be frozen.

Ketchup-2

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 red sweet (bell) pepper, coarsely chopped
2 TB tomato paste
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1-28 oz can whole or diced tomatoes
1/2 c light brown sugar
1/3 c cider vinegar
1/2 tsp powdered mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp each powdered allspice, cinnamon, clove, bay and leaf (see note below)
1 TB Thai fish sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Note: If you lack the powdered version of any of these, tie the whole spices in cheesecloth and add to the pot. Be sure to remove before blending!

In a 2 quart saucepan, sauté the onion and pepper in a little canola or other oil over medium heat until soft – don’t let them brown. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the paste darkens a bit. Add the tomatoes with their liquid along with all other ingredients. Simmer for about an hour, stirring once in a while, until thickened. Allow to cool for half an hour and transfer to a blender. Zap until completely smooth. At this time you can sample the ketchup and adjust the taste if needed. You can also add a little water if it’s too thick or simmer for a while if too thin.

 

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