I used to despair about how much tomato sauce my kids ate until I read that it contains lashings of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant (these days I squeeze it down their throats while holding their noses). I joke, of course, but we do eat an awful lot of tomatoes in this house, mainly because of my addiction to tomato soup, which still shows no signs of abating.
I bought a lovely big box of tomatoes yesterday and decided to try my hand at home-made ketchup. I approached this recipe with some trepidation, because I didn't think it would taste the same as shop sauce, but I needn't have worried: it not only tastes exactly like ketchup; it tastes better. I love a recipe that delivers on its promises, and this recipe does - in dollops. The spice combination is spot on.
It's adapted from Preserved, by Nick Sandler and Johnny Acton. If you're into drying, salting, smoking, pickling and bottling, I can highly recommend this brilliant and inspiring book.
I was particularly impressed to see that the first recipe in the book is for our beloved South African delicacy biltong: 'Mention to biltong to émigré South Africans and their eyes will start to water with nostalgia,' they write. 'Dark, chewy, and frankly pretty tough, this air-dried, spiced meat is an acquired taste, but once acquired it is never forgotten. Americans already have a head start through their predilection for beef jerky, but never make the mistake of comparing the two in the presence of a South African!'
Easy Home-Made Tomato Ketchup
3 and 1/2 kg ripe, juicy tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 cup (250 ml) vinegar (I used half malt vinegar, and half white wine vinegar)
10 whole cloves
4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1/2 t (2.5 ml) white pepper
1/2 t (2.5 ml) ground black pepper
1/2 t (2.5 ml) ground mace (use nutmeg if you can't find mace)
1/2 t (2.5 ml) ground allspice
1/2 t (2.5 ml) ground cinnamon
2 t (10 ml) paprika
1/2 cup (125 ml) white sugar
2 t (10 ml) salt
Remove the stalk 'scar' from the tomatoes using a sharp knife or apple corer, but don't peel them. Cut them in quarters and feed them through the tube of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, together with the garlic. Process to a chunky mush. (If you don't have a food processor, roughly chop the tomatoes into 1-cm sized pieces). Put the cloves and cardamom pods onto a little square of muslin or cloth and tie in a bundle, like a bouquet garni. Place the bundle into a deep preserving pot or a thick-based pan and add the tomato pulp and all remaining ingredients. Mix well, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and cook gently, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the mixture has reduced by a third, or is slightly thickened.
This will take about two hours. Remove the spice bag, allow the sauce to cool slightly, and then whizz to a rough purée in your food processor. Pour the purée back into the pan and bring to the boil. In the meantime, sterilise four jars (about 25o ml each) and their lids (or wide-mouthed bottles if you have them). Pour the boiling sauce into the jars, filling to within a few millimetres of the rim. Screw on the lids tightly, and tighten again after half an hour hour.
I suppose you could sieve this sauce if you wanted a really smooth ketchup.
The authors of Preserved recommend that you store the sauce for eight to ten months before you eat it, but I don't think I can wait that long. Keep in the fridge after opening.
Makes 4 jars.