Ketchup is funny. It packs a lot of baggage for a condiment. For one thing, it is just about the simplest condiment to be found, and also the most beloved. It is an afterthought, though. It is something we rarely, if ever, make ourselves because it is so cheap and convenient to purchase, and because…as a result of these two factors…no one really knows how to make it. It also has a low brow reputation. It is the stuff of fast food. It is a cover. Ketchup can hide a multitude of sins. Ketchup is how we get our kids to begin eating.
Pitts and I have few disagreements in life. We are a rather agreeable pair. But the few things we disagree on are bone deep and not bound to change. One of those things involves ketchup. Namely, he thinks ketchup should never ever go in the refrigerator. I was raised in a home where everything went in the refrigerator. Here is the hell hole of contention. Facts. Yes, cold ketchup is a little gross. No, we are never going to remember to take it out of the fridge an hour early. And, yes, opened ketchup that does not go in the fridge turns maroon and tastes tinny. These things are all true. I’d rather have cool red ketchup. He’d rather roll the dice on it turning maroon and not have to eat cold ketchup. I bet your family also has strongly held beliefs about this issue. I feel very fortunate that this is a problem for us.
Also, who hasn’t heard someone comment about how ticked off they get after cooking a complex meal only to have a spouse or child douse it in ketchup before even tasting it? Ouch. This is sensitive territory.
Yet there are meals that simply are not right for me without it. Forget the French fries, fried okra and onion rings. Yes, those always get ketchup. But I need, and I mean need on a deep emotional level, ketchup for meatloaf, pot roast, and (I’m a bit ashamed about this one) chicken fried steak.
I never check my ketchup supply before I make these things, however. Never. And there I stand in the kitchen, with hot food ready to go, and no ketchup.
So I love ketchup. I don’t use it often enough to keep it from going maroon in the pantry. I don’t think of it enough to get it out early. And it is something I use most often “out on the town.” In fact, when I made this yesterday, it caused me to leave the house and eat a cheeseburger and fries, somewhere else…with Heinz 57 on the table. And that is great because bottled ketchup is lovely and comforting and right. But so is knowing how to make the things you routinely consume, or at least knowing what they are made of. And I didn’t until recently have a clue about how to make ketchup. Something so central to American food life is essentially a ridiculous blind spot in cooking.
It is not a featured recipe in many cookbooks. Most books just skip it, either assuming their food is too couth to be associated with this basic condiment, or they rightly assume that most rational people will pick it up at the store. Those books that do have it start with tomatoes, and a lot of them. I suppose I could have boiled down whole tomatoes and if I had a gardenful, I would have. But buying a load of tomatoes to spend hours making ketchup is not really the point of this exercise. If I had hours, I’d probably just run back to the store, after all.
And here is the dirty truth, I made this the easy way (with tomato paste) and the slightly more difficult way (reducing canned whole tomatoes) and my whole tribe thought the tomato paste variety was better. So, I’m happy with that. Canned tomatoes are just one of those things that really work as a staple item. They are high quality and tasty and I like working with them.
So, I figured it out. And now I can have fresh (from a can) ketchup whenever I like.
So, after all that talking…here is a very easy way to make some ketchup if you are in a pinch.
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
½ cup corn syrup
⅓ cup distilled white vinegar
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon onion powder
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground yellow mustard
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often to avoid scorching. Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired. Remove the ketchup to a 2 cup capacity jar or other container and allow the ketchup to cool.
You can make this using brown sugar instead of corn syrup. The corn syrup yields a ketchup that tastes a little more like the store brands. All of the spices and the sugar can be adjusted to suit your tastes.
…and on ETSY…I have a new shipment of Nancy Lou Webster’s spoons. I don’t know how many more I’ll be getting before Christmas. So if you had an inclination to make a gift of one, consider grabbing one of these. Shop PIE’s ETSY shop here.
…and remember…you can fight elder hunger in Dallas by supporting VNA Texas and buying a Thanksgiving Pie. Support the Power of Pie by buying a Thanksgiving pie. The pies are being donated by area chefs and restaurants such as The Joule, The Anatole, The Four Seasons at Las Colinas, Empire Baking, John Tesar of Spoon, and Kent Rathbun’s restaurants Blue Plate and KB Catering. And even if you don’t buy a pie, help us thank these generous donors by supporting their businesses. I love it when businesses give back to the community like this. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.