My friend and cofounder of the Chicago Food Swap, Vanessa Druckman, brought an ancho chile–infused tomato ketchup to a swap a few years ago, and everyone was astonished by its rich, umami-laden taste. Since that time, homemade ketchups have become quite trendy. For anyone who spurns high-fructose corn syrup and other ingredients commonly found in processed foods, making your own ketchup is practically a necessity.
Homemade ketchup requires an enormous amount of tomatoes, and it is time-consuming. On the plus side, the flavor is amazing, and of course you can customize the ketchup to your family’s tastes, adding a little more brown sugar if you like your ketchup sweet or being generous with the cayenne pepper if you prefer heat. To make this ketchup, I roast the tomatoes, rather than boil them, which intensifies their flavor.
- Yield: 6 (8-ounce) jars
- 10 pounds Roma or plum tomatoes, halved
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2½ cups diced yellow onion
- 1 cup diced bell pepper
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pickling salt
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Arrange the tomato halves in single layers on three or four baking sheets. Roast the tomatoes in the preheated oven about 45 minutes, in batches if necessary, until soft and pulpy.
- While the tomatoes are roasting, combine the celery seeds, allspice berries, peppercorns, mustard seeds, cloves, and cinnamon stick in a spice bag or cheesecloth tied at the top. Combine the spice bag and the apple cider vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from the heat. Allow the spices to steep in the vinegar for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and sauté the onions and peppers over medium heat until very soft, about 20 minutes. Purée the onion mixture in the food processor until smooth.
- Once the tomatoes are roasted, remove them from the oven. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a large stockpot and add the tomatoes and any liquid that has accumulated, working in batches as necessary. Press down on the tomatoes with a spatula or wooden spoon to force the juice and pulp through the sieve, leaving behind the seeds and skins. You can also use a food mill, if you prefer. Discard the solids.
- To the tomato liquid in the pot, add the seasoned vinegar, the onion purée, the brown sugar, the salt, and the cayenne pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to boil until the ketchup is thick and spreadable, and will mound up on a spoon. This can take anywhere from 1 hour to 90 minutes, depending on the size of your pot, and how well you sieved your tomatoes.
- When the ketchup has thickened, ladle it into warm 8-ounce jars. I find that the wide-mouth jars work best for ketchup. Store in the refrigerator until ready to swap.