Every summer its the same thing–we wait, with baited breath, as we watch our green tomatoes for signs of ripening. Then one day we see a blush on them, and we salivate, remembering the taste of ripe summer tomatoes drizzled with a little olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Finally that beautiful day comes; the first ripe tomato of the summer. It’s a great day; we take a bite, our eyes roll back in our head, and we are grateful and happy that summer has come again to bless us with ripe juicy tomatoes. Just a week later we start our daily harvest of mounds of tomatoes, and we can’t waste even one. Maybe I start with a batch of tomato sauce, then another. Lunches are sliced tomatoes, dinners are tomatoes and our omelets have tomatoes. Why must they all come at once? They start to pile up; our freezers are full and our bellies say no more. That’s when we start scouring the internet for ways to use up the precious fruit.
However, not all of us really want to go to the effort of canning. Not all of us have bushels of tomatoes that need processing. Some of us just want a recipe we can make that produces something tasty and useful that we can use up and enjoy without having to can, freeze or make ten gallons of it. Everywhere you go you see recipes for tomato sauce, but there is another useful sauce made from tomatoes that is overlooked: ketchup. Everyone uses it. Why not make your own?
My old 1800’s cookbooks all started with a full bushel of tomatoes, and ended with canning enough to last a very large ketchup-loving family through a long winter. Even most of the more modern recipes for ketchup still produce enough to require long-term preservation. Instead, I just wanted to make a few cups to enjoy. Of course, if you want to make a large batch of this ketchup to can or freeze, this recipe will simply scale up. However, if you just want to use up some of your sad over-ripe fruit to prevent summer’s excess from rotting on the vine, this recipe is perfect.
The finished ketchup is thick and rich. The flavor is all ketchup. It’s better than store bought, and it’s also fun to make, not hard, but not fast. Most of the time it takes is just letting it simmer on a back burner. So, grab those tomatoes off the vine, and try this ketchup. Enjoy!
Small Batch Ketchup – Click here for a printer friendly version of this recipe
makes about 2 cups
If your tomatoes are at the peak of ripeness and are very sweet, use the full cup of vinegar. If your tomatoes are not really sweet start with 3/4 cup. You can add a little more after the first cooking if needed.
3 pounds tomatoes, about 10 medium
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 onion, chopped
between 3/4 – 1 cup cider vinegar (depending on ripeness of tomatoes)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 clove garlic
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
Add all ingredients to a large heavy-bottomed non-reactive pot.
Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until the mixture falls apart and is very soft, about 2 hours.
Press mixture through a food mill or force through a fine sieve.
You will have a very small pile of skins and seeds that will not go through the mill/sieve; maybe a 1/2 cup.
Discard those seeds and skins and return the rest of the pulp and juice to the pot.
Bring back to a very slow simmer and cook until mixture thickens and darkens slightly. This will take another few hours. It is very important during this reduction time to stir the pot frequently to prevent the ketchup from scorching or sticking to the bottom of the pan. Test by dropping a spoon of the ketchup onto a plate. If it is not ready, liquid will seep around the edges. When it is ready, no liquid will seep from the edges. When the ketchup is finally ready, cool and refrigerate. It will last several weeks in the refrigerator.
Ketchup that is not ready has a liquid outer ring
Ketchup that is ready is thick and the liquid does not form an outer ring