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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas means Ketchup..Catsup?

My friends. You all know how I like to give something jarred for Christmas. This has been a lost art among most Americans but recently has seen a revival. As terrible as the economical situation has been for most of us the last handful of years it has triggered a resurgence is canning and jarring. I myself learned this skill to make the most of what the garden produced.
 There was a time; it wasn't that long ago, when Moms, Grandmas and Aunties among others would give with pride something they jarred themselves to friends and family at this time of year. Since I'm a poor Chef I have replaced stressing about how to afford presents and now look forward to giving of myself from the kitchen where my heart and soul live. This year I have a mind to make Ketchup...'cus who doesn't like Ketchup? Or is it Catsup? Isn't it just like me to do months of research to find out?
 Yeah it is...
The first commercially produced Ketchup
Many, many years ago (mid 1600's) the Chinese had a pickled fish and soybean sauce (koe-chiap)  that bares no resemblance to the tomato condiment we use today but it was salty and vinegary, Yankee sailors encountered it and loved it so... Skip ahead, some lady in the 1700's named Sandy Addison penned a recipe in The Sugar House Book for Catsup using Tomatoes and Salt. The spelling depends on where in the States you live, that's all. Formerly it was made with vinegar, salt and a weird selection of anything including Mushrooms, Anchovies and unripe Chestnuts. Skip ahead again and we find someone adding sugar and spices. Ahead again, Onions and more Tomato. Simply, Salt is a preservative, so is Vinegar, so is Sugar. Get it now? I've made Ketchup before on this blog as a way to save a whole grip of unripe Tomatoes. (6-1-11) See? Save what can be saved. I dived into my pile of antique cook-books and emerged with....

Chef Nick's Christmas Spicy Ketchup: I used an old original recipe from the 1800's but I wanted something with more guts so I adjusted and added some assorted spices and Chipotle, 'cus I live in the southwest and that's just how we roll. 

A big bunch of Roma Tomatoes (pictured above)
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove Garlic (no, the original recipe didn't call for it but how could I not add it?)
1 TB of Cumin
scant pinch of ground Allspice
good pinch fresh ground Black Pepper
4 Chipotle peppers in Adobo (the canned kind)
2 cups of white vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 cup Kosher Salt
1 TB of pickling spice tied up in cheesecloth

A big-ass pot with lid
and a fine wire-mesh strainer
either a food-processor or hand blender
Kerr mason jars. Later ok?

and a big pot of this
First up, rinse Tomatoes under cold water and then chop off the core end. Slice Tomatoes length-wise.

small bowl of potential compost
You can just dump the tomatoes right into the pot you're using

one of my favorite smells

Pickling spice is actually a blend of different things including Dill Seed, Bay Leaf, Pepper-Corns, Allspice Berries..etc. It's easy to find. What we need to do here is to take a Tablespoon and tie it into a small sack of cheese-cloth. This will make it easy to fish out later.

four whole Chipotle, the smear is the Adobo

I could have followed the original recipe, but I'm a Chef so I didn't. I wanted to make something more my style so after some consideration I thought a spicy Arizona version was more my speed. I adjusted the spice ratios a bit and added cumin and Chipotle in Adobo. Most of my readers are from this area but a good amount of you aren't so here's some words about what this is. Chipotle is made by dry-smoking Jalepeno chili peppers with Mesquite wood. Smoky-sweet and very very hot. It is then either sold in a dry form OR canned in a chili puree known as Adobo. It's one of the best ingredients to have on hand. After some testing I added four from the can. If you don't want spicy then by all means just leave it out and continue.

In the pot of Tomatoes just dump all the other ingredients in.

Set over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Lower heat and simmer until the Tomatoes are dissolved and the Onion is completely translucent. Fish out the sack of Pickling Spice and  toss it out.

All we have to do now is puree. Remove the pot from heat and let cool for a bit. If you're using a hand-blender just stick it in this mess and go nuts. If you're using a food-processor then by ladle-full process until liquid.
thunder stick
Either way we move on to the next step which is a real bitch. We need to remove all traces of seeds and skins. the only way to do that is to send it through a wire mesh strainer. I know, fun right?
 By ladle-full, strain this and with a flexible spatula PRESS through to remove all that stuff. Use a large bowl to catch what we need to catch. It takes a while. Take your time. Aaaannnnddd done now? Right on!!

  Dump all that back into another clean pot and bring back to a boil and then keep on simmer until reduced by half (approximately) This is a slow process, tomatoes contain a grip of water. The only way to thicken this stuff is by evaporation. Taste some and add maybe salt, more vinegar or sugar. Or not.

what you start with

reduced by half

Now we jar. Don't be scared. We've done this before. If our Grandmothers can do it then so can we.

Put the jars and lids in a big pot, fill with water and over high heat bring to a boil. Sterilize. Also any tools you might need like tongs should go in the water as well. Keep on hand some clean towels and some paper towels. The process is actually really easy. Keep everything sterile. Lift one jar at a time from the boiling water. Hold it with a towel and fill. Use a paper towel to wipe the top of the jar if you spill, it needs to stay clean or you won't get a good seal. Place the seal part of the lid on the top and then twist the ring part firmly but gently. Move on to the next jar. See? Easy right? Before you go to the last step, turn the heat off under your big pot of water.

Now, last step. Once you have filled all your jars put them back in the hot water making sure the entire jar is covered.

Let them sit in the water for a few minutes and remove to a clean flat surface. Keep them out of drafts and before too long you'll hear a soft "plink" as the jars seal. Let them cool completely and attach bitchin' labels. Mine are purple.
 I'm really excited to give these away this year. It took some work but it's all me and it was completely worth it. Merry Christmas all!!

Happy Holidays 
cooking poor, eating rich
Get your grub on


  1. a lot of work..and a lot of love...

    1. It was a lot of work but is was also lots of fun