Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Heirloom Tomato Ketchup

I don't know what I've been putting on hamburgers all these years... some kind of watered down, mass-produced ghost of a condiment, it seems.

I found a recipe for Ketchup in my well worn copy of this year's Saveur 100, which seemed to be saying definitively that ketchup is derived from some fermented Chinese soy condiment, and the Oxford English Dictionary kind of backs this up with the first documented use of the word in English being in 1690, "Catchup: a high East-India Sauce". But, there's some contention: according to the Ketchup Wikipedia (which seems to have been written as a clever and informative ad for Heinz), Americans invented it in the 1800's.

I bet it was kind of both... since vinegar and sugar are two main preservatives in home canning, and savory-sweet is totally delicious, it makes sense to combine them with an abundant garden fruit into a versatile condiment, no matter where you are. Somewhere along the line, through popularity and the mass-produced junkification of food in general, it lost it's soul. The ketchup I made bears no resemblance to the single serve packets at the Golden Arches... it is complicated, hearty, tangy and sweet with the mouth-watering undertones of umami.

I bought 20lbs of heirloom tomato "seconds" from the Wobbly Cart stand at the Farmer's Market, for the unbelievably low price of $18, with a plan for ketchup, salsa, tomato marmalade and more. Heirlooms seem to go for about $5.99/lb at the store, and this box of beauties worked out to be about $.90/lb. Holy cow. A few were a bit squishy and all of them definitely need to be used within a few days, but whatever, so worth it!

6 lbs heirloom tomatoes
2 onions
1 chile pepper
4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 c white vinegar
2 1/2 tbs salt
3 bay leaves
15 ish cloves
10 ish whole allspice
1 tbs celery seed
1 tbs chile flakes
1 stick cinnamon
2 sticks cinnamon
1 thumb size ginger knob

Filled four 16 oz jars + one 8 oz jar

The recipe called for an anaheim pepper, but I couldn't find exactly that at the market, so I got a mystery pepper that smelled like it'd be good. I made it once before with two jalapeño, and that was also fine. I also made it with white wine vinegar the first time, with a less biting result, but it might require more since it likely has a lower acidity than regular white vinegar.

Blanched the tomatoes for 3o seconds, till the skin split. Peeled and cored them. The recipe in Saveur didn't include this step, but in another book it explains that doing so eliminates the need to thoroughly strain it later on.

Tied all the spices up in a layer of cheesecloth, roughly chopped the onion and garlic and chile pepper (I removed the seeds of the pepper). Threw it all in the pot with the vinegar, sugar and salt. chile pepper

Cooked the tomato mixture on medium high, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, until all the ingredients were smooshy and the onions were translucent.

Let it cool down a bit and, working in batches, liquified it in my food processor. The recipe says to strain it at this point, presumably to remove the solid bits of skin and seed, but I tried doing this with both a cheesecloth and strainer, but found the results too thin for my taste. I'd already removed the skins, anyway. I've heard tomato seeds can make things bitter, but oh well. I'll probably eat it all before that happens.

Poured the soupy mixture back in the pot on medium high heat again, for about 40 minutes, until it was thick enough for my taste. Ladled it into sterilized jars and processed it for 20 minutes.

I think I'll still enjoy the junky kind, on appropriately junky foods, but in my home, "Ketchup--it's not just for hamburgers anymore!". My friend Alexa put it on a bagel with butter, and since then I've eaten it on toast and quinoa and rice and salmon.

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