Recipe: Homemade Gourmet Ketchup
+ a Printable Vintage Catsup Label

If someone had told me one year ago that I'd someday be singing the praises of ketchup, I would have told them to take their crystal ball in to be serviced.  Unless it's mixed up in a fry sauce or is on a burger, I've been perfectly content to live my life without that high fructose laden tomato condiment.  That all changed a few months ago, however, when my family stopped for a bite at a wonderful little cafe and charcuterie in Solvang, CA.  

Served alongside my daughter's house-cured hotdog and crispy potato wedges at Succulent Cafe was a homemade ketchup like no other.  "Try this!" my husband insisted.  I threw him the "You know I don't eat ketchup {dorkpie} !" face.  "Seriously.  You have to try it," he persisted.  He would not relent till I tried it.  I'm glad I gave in.  The homemade ketchup had a rich tomato flavor, not too sweet and the perfect tang.  The flavor was so complex that we found ourselves wanting to eat it with a spoon long after the fries were gone...
...Fast forward to last week...

vintage catsup ketchup label photo vintagetomatocatsupketchupbottlelabelprintable_zps007d8eb1.jpg
Just click on the image above to download for personal use.
While browsing a local antique mall, I came across a beautiful vintage catsup label. It was just the inspiration I needed to try making my own gourmet ketchup at home.

I used a recipe from my favorite culinary experts, the folks at Cook's Illustrated.  On a tip from childhood friend, Kara, I added harissa to half of the homemade ketchup.  My kids couldn't get enough of the plain homemade ketchup, and my husband and I are hooked on the slightly spicier and more aromatic harissa version.  

Ketchup, Catsup, whatever you like to call it -- is it worth the time and effort to make at home?  Absolutely!  The only danger is that once you've had it, it'll be hard to go back to the pre-made stuff.  It's like eating a jarred spaghetti sauce after growing up with an Italian grandma's homemade, simmered all day and cooked with love, sauce. 

The homemade harissa ketchup makes a mean fry sauce too!  Just add 1 Tablespoon of the homemade ketchup to 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise and stir in two finely chopped cornichons. 

Homemade Gourmet Ketchup

(with harissa or without)
Yield:  approx. 4 cups

adapted from my favorite canning cookbook:

  • a sheet of cheesecloth
  • 10" kitchen twine
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice berries
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes (I prefer Muir Glen Organic)
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional:  3 Tablespoons harissa for each cup of finished ketchup.  You can make your own harissa, but I used and enjoyed Shiloh's (100% natural from Whole Foods)
Step 1:  Bundle the peppercorns, mustard seeds, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and allspice in a sheet of doubled-over cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine to secure, leaving about 5 inches extra twine on 1 end.

Step 2:  Heat the oil and cloves in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until oil begins to bubble.  Continue to cook 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 5 minutes.  Strain oil through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl and discard the cloves.

Step 3:  Return strained clove oil to the now-empty saucepan and heat over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the onion and cook until softened (5-7 minutes).  Stir in tomato paste and garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute).  

Step 4:  Transfer to blender, add tomatoes and process (in batches if necessary) until smooth, about 30 seconds. Return tomato mixture to the now-empty pot, and stir in brown sugar, vienegar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.  Secure twine of spice bag to the handle of the pot and submerge the bag in the tomato mixture.

Step 5:  Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally until mixture is dark red, thick, and reduced to about 4 cups (about 2 hours).  

Step 6:  Remove spice bag.  Strain ketchup through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl, pressing on solids.  Let ketchup cool to room temperature, then season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Step 7:  Optional -- stir in 3 Tablespoons of harissa for every 1 cup of ketchup.

Step 8:  Pour cooled ketchup into jars or plastic squeeze bottles with tight-fitting lids and refrigerate.  The homemade ketchup can be refrigerated for up to a month.

If you'd like to personalize your labels, here's a free sheet you can download and customize in MS Word.

Click HERE


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