Thursday, October 18, 2012

Playing "Ketchup" - Healthier Home-Made Ketchup Recipe

When I first found fennel in my CSA share, I searched around for recipes and came across this one for ketchup. I was intrigued, but didn't have any of the fancy spices, or even the tomatoes. So I shelved it for a while, and found other uses for my fennel bulbs.
But when a bounty of heirloom tomatoes overwhelmed me in September, I decided it was time to give it a try! Plus we were running low on ketchup.
I decided to change up the recipe a bit, to fit what I thought we'd like better. So here's my version.

6 large tomatoes, quartered
1 bulb fennel, chopped (can also include stalks, but not fronds, chopped)
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 tsp minced garlic (or 4 cloves, minced)
*1/4 c sugar
*1/4 c molasses
1/4 c apple cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1 Tbsp salt
Optional: 1 bunch greens, leaves separated from stems (if applicable) and chopped

*You could probably get away with just 1/4 c total between the sugar and molasses. Or just one or the other. Or possibly even neither. I was really surprised at how sweet my ketchup was. Since I included more than the 6 tomatoes the original recipe called for, plus a bunch of mustard greens, I figured I could get away with the whole amount of sugar and molasses, despite the potential added sweetness from the apple cider vinegar.

Place all ingredients in a large pot.

Reduce (uncovered) over low heat until mixture becomes very thick, stirring occasionally. Expect it to take at least 4 hours.
Puree mixture in food processor or blender.

Strain through a mesh strainer. Refrigerate up to two weeks, or freeze in small batches for longer. (You can freeze in an ice cube tray and then pop those into a freezer baggie as well.)
As I strained, I saved the "sludge" left in my strainer in another dish. After giving it all one last push through the strainer at the end, I saved it and used it in a baked noodle dish! More on that another time!

The Verdict
Hubby and I really liked it. It was a little sweeter than I was expecting, so next time I would definitely reduce the amount of sugar added. I was very pleased that the apple cider vinegar worked out, since I had subbed it for red wine vinegar, which I didn't have. I was also worried that it would need the spices that I omitted, but the heirloom tomatoes, mustard greens and fennel gave it a nice depth of flavor.
Z liked it the first few times, until she saw me mixing it with decreasing amounts of the old stuff that I'd squirted into a small re-usable container and saved so that I could wash and re-use the empty bottle. She now refuses to eat "Mommy's ketchup," and when faced with the absence of the old kind, has boycotted ketchup entirely, in favor of mustard. Gah! I keep trying though!

Other than all the chopping, this was super easy! And I probably chopped way more finely than needed, since it all gets pureed in the end anyway.

The strained off sludge was crazy good in the pasta dish I used it for later. So good, in fact, I made this again without the sugar, as a sauce (no straining!) I'll post that later too!

*Update: I'd only tried the ketchup off of tasting spoons, rather than with real food. Z kept complaining that she wanted "the old ketchup. Not Mama's new ketchup!" So she switched to mustard, since I refused to open a bottle of old ketchup until my new ketchup was gone. Then Hubby made fries one night. The ketchup was kind of nasty with them. Urk. So I agreed to let her have "regular" ketchup again, and we've been using the ketchup on noodles. Z enjoys it just fine as "spaghetti!"
Not sure what went wrong. May just try without the fennel and use regular vinegar next time. And half the sugar.

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