A while ago, we tasted 32 different tomato ketchups to find “the best” (here are the ketchup reviews).
Many of these were small, artisanal brands and more pricey than supermarket ketchup. But one of the top winners, Muir Glen, is widely available (at most stores that sell natural and organic foods; we get it at Whole Foods), one of the least expensive, and is both organic and kosher.
But how about making ketchup at home, just as you make salad dressing. It’s just as easy. There are five basic ingredients: tomato paste and purée, vinegar, sweetener and seasonings.
It’s fun to make ketchup. You can cut back on salt, avoid high fructose corn syrup and reduce the sweeteners in general, while adding favorite spices.
WHAT’S IN COMMERCIAL KETCHUP?
Heinz Ketchup contains tomato concentrate, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt, spice, onion powder, and natural flavors.
Homemade ketchup is a worthy match for a top-quality hot dog. Photo of Fearless Franks courtesy Niman Ranch.
The ingredients are pretty much the same for Hunt’s Ketchup: tomato concentrate, high fructose corn syrup, distilled vinegar, corn syrup, salt, onion powder, garlic powder and natural flavors.
Del Monte Ketchup uses regular con syrup instead of HFCS. Otherwise, the list looks familiar: tomato concentrate, corn syrup, distilled vinegar, salt, natural flavorings, onion powder, spice and garlic powder.
These ketchups tend to deliver sweetness first, then tomato flavor, and not much else. You can greatly improve the flavor of homemade ketchup by using:
Serve waffle fries with your homemade
ketchup. Photo courtesy Idaho Potato
Better Vinegar. Mass-produced ketchups use distilled white vinegar. Cider vinegar makes ketchup taste so much better.
Better Sweetener. Instead of HFCS or the more benign corn syrup, both of which deliver bland sweetness, use flavorful brown sugar, honey or maple syrup. Or cut calories and lower the glycemic index with agave or a non-caloric sweetener like stevia or aspartame.
Favorite Spices. Add chilies, hot sauce, pepper and other spices; we love curry ketchup. Add them in small amounts, letting the spices meld; taste before adding more. You also get to use real onion instead of onion powder.
HOMEMADE KETCHUP RECIPE
1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in purée
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar or substitute*
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Other seasonings of choice
*If you are using a different sweetener, the proportions may be different. Add a smaller amount and adjust to taste.
1. PURÉE tomatoes and liquid until smooth.
2. COOK onion in olive oil over moderate heat, stirring until softened (about 8 minutes). Add puréed tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, salt and other seasonings.
3. SIMMER, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until very thick, about 1 hour. Stir more frequently toward end of cooking to prevent scorching.
4. PURÉE ketchup in 2 batches until smooth. Chill, covered, at least 2 hours for flavors to develop. Adjust seasonings.
Continue to work on the recipe, switching the proportions of vinegar, sweetener and spices, until you define your signature recipe. Then, don’t give it out: It’s your secret.