Monday, August 27

Heirloom Tomato Ketchup

We're brimming with heirloom tomatoes from our farm CSA box, but somehow none of my usual uses for tomatoes have seemed appealing lately. The tomatoes this year have been so good that they mostly beg to be eaten straight - sliced with a bit of sea salt and good olive oil, or layered into a caprese salad with basil and fresh mozzarella. But there are only so many fresh tomatoes we can eat, and I came home tonight to find a couple handsome heirlooms on the verge of decline. It seemed a good night to try and put together a real ketchup.

Commercial ketchup, like commercial mayonnaise, bears little resemblance to the real thing. Raised like everyone else on the supermarket formula consisting mostly of high-fructose corn syrup, tomato paste and celery powder, it never occurred to me that ketchup could be anything more than a fast food side. But a little breakfast joint on our old neighborhood happened to have a fantastic homemade variety, and I've been meaning to make a batch ever since.

This recipe lends itself well to experimentation - all of the spices can be adjusted to taste, and many others would be worth playing with. For a spicier sauce, add a few (or many) dashes of hot sauce. It also turns out a delightful golden orange color if you use a mix of different colored tomatoes.

-- Heirloom Tomato Ketchup

*2 tbs olive oil
*1 medium onion, finely diced
*1 red jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
*4 cloves garlic
*3 lbs assorted heirloom tomatoes, peeled and seeded
*1/3 cup + 3 tbs apple cider vinegar
*2 tbs dark brown sugar
*1 cup water
*1 tsp cardamom
*1 star anise
*1 tsp celery seed
*1/2 tsp cloves
*1 tsp cinnamon
*2 tsp smoked paprika
*1 tsp chili powder
*2 tsp salt
*freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. In a non-reactive sauce pan, sauté the onion and jalapeño in the olive oil until golden and very soft, about 20 minutes. When the pan starts to dry out, add 1/2 cup of the water. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then stir in tomatoes, 1/3 cup vinegar, and the sugar.

2. Place the cardamom, star anise, celery seed, and cloves in a spice bag, or tie in a bit of cheesecloth, and add to the tomato mixture. Add the cinnamon, smoked paprika, chili powder and salt and stir well.

3. Cook the ketchup until thick but not completely dry, about 2-3 hours. Adjust seasoning to taste and transfer to a blender. Puree until very smooth. You may need to add the other 1/2 cup water if the ketchup is too thick. Pour in the additional 3 tbs vinegar (or to taste) and pulse to combine. Transfer to sterile jars and refrigerate, or process 15 minutes in a boiling water canner. Homemade ketchup should last about 2 months in the refrigerator.

Yields 2 small jars.


Anonymous said...

OMG! I can't wait to try this. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. --J in Toledo

Hillary said...

Thanks! It never even occurred to me that there was such a thing as homemade ketchup. My mind has been so brainwashed by Heinz that I just about thought that was the only kind of ketchup out there! But this looks really great. Are those potato fries, or something else? Those ALSO look amazing...mmmm...

Anonymous said...

I've heard from numerous sources that the "secret" ingredient in ketchup is nutmeg. Somewhat interesting that you do not include that in your recipe.

Rose said...

J- Thanks!

Hillary - Oh yes, those are sweet potato oven fries - just toss sliced sweet potatoes with olive oil, sprinkle with pepper and good salt, and bake at 425 until tender and crisp.

Anonymous - Very likely, modern commercial recipes DO include nutmeg, and it would be fine to add it. But this won't taste exactly like the ketchup we're used to anyway. Interestingly, ketchup went through a long history as a condiment before becoming the thing we know today. Here's a link to some historical recipes:

bri said...

Rose, what a great idea! I live near Sebastopol and have been delighted with the produce this summer, especially heirloom tomatoes. I have made my share of caprese this summer and your ketchup recipe is something I must try. Thanks for sharing it.

Sorina said...

Your blog looks very are doing a very good job. Tanks for posting!!!

shanishah44 said...

nice recipe discussed and shared with all of us :)

Pain Management
Diet Menu

vincent said...


We bumped into your blog and we really liked it - great recipes YUM YUM.
We would like to add it to the

We would be delighted if you could add your blog to Petitchef so that our users can, as us,
enjoy your recipes.

Petitchef is a french based Cooking recipes Portal. Several hundred Blogs are already members
and benefit from their exposure on

To add your site to the Petitchef family you can use or just go to and click on "Add your site"

Best regards,