A fun couple days in the outdoor kitchen this summer happened when we made a batch of ketchup. Homemade ketchup! Ever hear of it? Me neither.
Although we call it ketchup, it’s nothing like the store bought sugary sweet condiment that we’ve all had on a burger or dipped our fries into. Our Country Ketchup is more like a really flavorful tomato paste, but in a pourable consistency. It’s really good on a sandwich, on pasta or potatoes, or as the tomato base for many a recipe.
We started with a bushel of tomatoes and laid those on a table outdoors to let them fully ripen. A couple pounds of Hungarian peppers and a couple of pounds of red bell peppers were laid on the table also. After 4 or 5 days of sun-ripening the two-day cooking of the ketchup could commence.
In the outdoor kitchen we had a propane burner with a 30 pound tank providing all the fuel we needed for all the canning and preserving for the whole summer.
A large granite pot was used to cook down the vegetables. Each tomato was sliced in half, or in quarters if it was a large one, and dropped into a blender. We didn’t take any pains to remove the tomato skin or the seeds. Everything went into the pot. When the blender was about half full it was poured into the big pot.
Peppers were treated the same way, except the inner parts and seeds of the peppers were thrown out and not put in the pot.
I found out about not touching your face or rubbing your eyes after handling Hungarian peppers. Even after I had washed my hands there was still significant “hot stuff” on my hands to cause essential blindness for about 15 minutes. I had rubbed my eyes after washing my hands and wow! The burning was so intense and my eyes watered so badly that I couldn’t see! I just kept them closed because opening them wasn’t possible. The air seemed to make them burn even more. After splashing water on my face, and getting it everywhere, I could still feel the burning but it was diminishing. When I could finally keep my eyes open I saw my face was beet red. A glass of green tea made me feel better, but I learned a good lesson about handling super hot peppers.
We used the Hungarian peppers, red bell peppers, banana peppers and sweet frying peppers in the ketchup. Our tomato selection included a couple varieties of the big slicing type and a lot of Roma tomatoes. Vidalia onions were added to the mix near the end of the cooking, on the second day.
For added flavor we put pickling spices and about 10 green sassafras leaves in a cheesecloth bag that was allowed to hang in the pot during cooking. I tied a piece of twine around the cheesecloth to make a sort of bag. A long length of twine was left so that it could hang over the side of the pot.
A couple cups of sugar and vinegar were added after the soup cooked down for a whole day. We still sliced veggies, blended and poured the veggie juice into the pot and the pot was stirred. Cooking down a bushel of tomatoes and a peck of peppers took a while to say the least. When we got into doing this little project I wasn’t aware that it was a two-day process to make homemade ketchup!
Since the pot was cooking for a day before we added the sugar I’m not sure how far into the recipe we got before we added the sugar. Let’s just say that we were 3/4 done with adding the veggies. Once the sugar was added, we had to be careful to keep stirring the pot or else the sticky sauce would burn on the bottom of the pot.
Taste-testing commenced after the sugar and vinegar were added and allowed to simmer for a while. Too sweet? Add more vinegar.
We bottled the homemade ketchup in Grölsch beer bottles that had been run through a light cycle in the dishwasher. The ceramic cap provides a great seal that can be opened and resealed. The ketchup bottles can be stored at room temperature until they’re opened.
The guy at the wine store sold us a case of the empty Grölsch bottles at a dollar each. If purchased individually, they would have been $1.25 each. I say go buy the beer and enjoy drinking it first. Ah…memories of Amsterdam!
A ladle and funnel were put to good use filling each beer bottle with our delicious ketchup. After each bottle was filled while the ketchup was still hot, the cap was pushed on to seal each bottle.
Doubt the case of ketchup will last a year as it’s so versatile – it goes with everything!
Have you made homemade ketchup? Or is it catsup? Leave a comment and tell us about your outdoor cooking adventures!