Make Catsup – or Ketchup even – at Home with Fresh Garden Ingredients

Making catsup (ketchup) at home is a good winter activity. It takes a fair bit of time and a lot of heat to simmer tomatoes down to a good, thick ketchup.

We’ve tried a couple recipes for home-made ketchup.  I think we’ve settled on the one here, lightly adapted from Ball’s Blue Book Guide to Preserving.

When tomatoes are ripening by the bushel in August and September there is little time to prepare and can or freeze the various foods we will eventually make with them. So lots of our fresh garden tomatoes get simply canned as they ripen in order to be available for use through the fall and winter.

The bulk of these ingredients are home grown in our garden. We start with 4 quarts of canned tomatoes, frozen red bell pepper that were cut into 1 inch pieces and froze back in Sepetmber, and onions in stored in fall.  We use a big, thick-bottomed canning pot in order to reduce the chance of scourching the ketsup as it reduces. This recipe yields 6 or 7 half pint jars.

4 quarts canned tomatoes
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 cup vinegar

Cook the tomatoes, onion, and peppers until good and soft – 30 minutes or so – then blend in a blender or hand food mill. Return the puree to the pot and reduce by half – this will take an hour or two. Obviously the hotter the fire the faster the ketchup will reduce, but the greater chance you have of burning it. I tend to keep the fire failrly low, use a “fire tamer” and scrap the bottom of the pan with a wood spatula every 10 minutes or so.

Then add the vinegar, sugar and spices. Tie the whole allspice up in a patch of cheese cloth, or fish them out (along with the cinnamon stick) before canning.

Simmer until the sauce approaches the consistency you want. It’ll never be as thick as commercial ketchup unless you want to use thickeners. We’re good with slightly less thick catsup. As the sauce thickens stir and scrape the bottom of the pot frequently. Otherwise it will scorch.

To can the catsup, ladel the hot sauce into hot jars and process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.