Make Your Own Ketchup!

Who doesn’t like ketchup? It’s good on burgers, hotdogs, meatloaf, fries, hash browns… so many yummy things. It also happens to be the perfect thing for DIY preservers to learn. If you’re new to preserving/canning, start with tomato products. Tomatoes are high in acid, so they can be safely canned in a water-bath canner instead of the more complicated pressure canner. But the first time you make this recipe, don’t worry about canning it– it only makes two pints, so you’ll likely eat it right away. This will allow you to get the recipe perfected to your liking. Then you can properly can another batch the next time. The recipe that follows is one adapted from a great little book I picked up recently called Old-Time Pickling & Spicing Recipes: 110 Small-Quantity Favorites for Today’s Homemakers by Florence Brobeck.

Tomato Ketchup

4.5 lbs tomatoes

1 sweet red pepper

2 medium-sized onions, peeled and quartered

1/2 teaspoon whole allspice

1/2 teaspoon whole cloves

2 3-inch sticks cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

1/2 dry mustard

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1.)  Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Dunk the tomatoes into the boiling water for a few minutes, them remove them to a towel to cool. This will allow you to peel off their skins easily. Once they are cool enough to touch, rub the skins off. Cut out the stem ends and quarter.

2.) Dice the pepper.

3.) Put the tomatoes and pepper through a manual food mill, or press them through a colander, or puree them until chunky in a food processor or blender. I recommend the food mill because it gives the best consistency.

4.) Cook the tomato mixture over low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently so it doesn’t stick and burn.

5.) Put the cooked tomato mix through the food mill, colander or processer again to produce a finer consistency.

6.) Return tomato mix to kettle and bring to a boil. Boil for another 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

7.) Tie whole spices into a cheesecloth square or put them in a spice ball and add them, along with the remaining ingredients to the tomato mix.

8.) Stirring frequently, cook until very thick and fragrant. Pour into glass jars and seal. Unprocessed, it will keep in the refrigerator 7-10 days.

You might be wondering what a food mill is, and why should have one. It’s basically the manual predecessor to the food processor. I think it is superior to electric processors for a few reasons- it’s manually operated, so it’s not using up energy, it’s quieter to operate, and the texture of the finished product is better (it’s not instantly liquified). They can be used for all manner of things- they are indispensible during preserving time, and can also be used for soups, sauces, etc. I recommend the “Foley” Food Mill that Lehman’s carries (

Extra-large stainless-steel tea balls (also known as spice infusers) can be found at Cost Plus World Market stores, or Lee Valley Tools has a nice one for just $6 at,40733,44734,47832&p=47832. Of course, it has lots of uses in your kitchen– use for spices in soups and sauces, or use to make large quantities of herb tea or sun tea.


3 thoughts on “Make Your Own Ketchup!

  1. So when do you put in the onion and sugar, salt, paprika, pepper, mustard and cidar vinegar? I’m guessing all the rest are the spices that go in the infuser?

  2. I recently glanced at “The Victory Farmer’s Cookbook” and it mentioned that it *used* to be sufficient to do a water bath for preserving tomatoes, because tomatoes used to be acidic across the board. But these days, many tomatoes have been bred for maximum productivity and shelf life, and as a result they aren’t consistently acidic anymore. If you’re dealing with an old recipe, it’s always a good idea to throw in some extra acidity if you’re using a modern tomato. It looks like you’ve already got that covered with the vinegar, but I thought it was worth mentioning anyway!

    I don’t have much experience with preservation, but it’s definitely something I’m going to become familiar with sooner rather than later if I want to enjoy this summer’s bounty through the winter!

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