I have tried as hard as I’ve been able to in the last few years to avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I just don’t like the stuff. Recently, I felt pretty vindicated about my near-obsessional dislike for HFCS when a report surfaced about mercury being found (by FDA scientists, no less!) in some HFCS samples. Yes, I said mercury! It can cause brain damage and all sorts of bad stuff. You can read more about mercury in high fructose corn syrup in this post by Leslie Hatfield on The Green Fork.
One of the few products with HFCS in it that I continued (ack!) to eat was ketchup, at least until a certain favorite brand of mine started selling organic ketchup, which contains cane sugar instead of HFCS. I thought I’d just go the extra step and make my own – why the hell not. I have to admit that making your own ketchup does take just a *bit* more time than simply running down to the corner store and picking up a bottle of organic ketchup, but it was fun to make and the result is actually better (gasp!) than my favorite brand of organic ketchup. In the summer, I’ll try to make this with the equivalent amount (about 2 pounds) of fresh tomatoes.
This recipe is a hybrid, adapted from recipes in Sauveur, Gourmet, and my grandma’s 1940s-era cookbook The Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking.
Makes a little less than 2 cups.
4 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon whole allspice
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
1 cinnamon stick (3-inches long)
One 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes with their juice
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
Special Equipment: Cheesecloth
- Using kitchen twine, tie the cloves, allspice, celery seed, chile flakes, and cinnamon stick together in a medium square of doubled-up cheesecloth. (You just made a bouquet garni!)
- In a large, heavy pot, add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, optional jalapeno, salt, vinegar, and brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions and peppers are very soft, about 1 hour.
- Remove and discard the secret spice bundle. Let the mixture cool slightly, then puree in batches in a blender or food processor. (Be careful pureeing hot liquids! Don’t fill the blender too full.)
- At this point, if the mixture is too pulpy for your taste, pass the liquid through a sieve, pushing as much of the solids through with a rubber spatula as you can. If you prefer your ketchup a little more rustic and a little less smooth, you can skip this step.
- Return to your pot and cook over medium heat, stirring to keep from scorching, until the mixture has thickened and darkened slightly in color, about 30 minutes. (If the mixture starts to scorch, turn down the heat a bit.)
- Transfer to a container (a glass jar is preferable) and let cool. Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours to allow the flavors to meld. Your delicious homemade ketchup will keep in the fridge for up to three weeks.