I recently went on a homemade condiment kick, writing a food feature about DIY horseradish and mustard. I closed by saying I was thinking about trying homemade ketchup. Thanks to kind reader Christie Macdonald, who picked up on my request and sent in a ketchup-making video from Chef John, who offers very funny and helpful cooking videos at his website foodwishes.blogspot.com. (I love Chef John.) I've adapted the recipe below from his video method and printed ingredients. I've also included a bit of a cheat recipe -- and we all need a few cheats -- that starts with store-bought ketchup but spices things up for a semi-customized condiment.
And since grilling season has finally -- finally! -- started, I'd love to get some recipes for your best-ever barbecue sauce.
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2 x (796-ml or 28-oz) cans crushed tomatoes or canned plum tomatoes, broken up
125 ml (1/2 cup) water
160 ml (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
180 ml (3/4 cup) white vinegar
8 ml (1 3/4 tsp) salt
5 ml (1 tsp) onion powder (not onion salt!)
2 ml (1/2 tsp) garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
1 ml (1/4 tsp) finely ground black pepper
1/2 ml (1/8 tsp) celery salt
1/2 ml (1/8 tsp) mustard powder
1 whole clove
Pinch cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and stir. (The slow-cooker method allows for long, slow cooking without the risk of burning the bottom. You do need to watch and stir occasionally, though, so this isn't one of those slow-cooker recipes that you can leave overnight or unattended.) Cook on the high setting, uncovered (this is important, or the mixture won't cook down), stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by about half and very thick. Chef John's mix took 10 hours, while mine took about 41Ñ2 hours, so clearly there is a lot of variation in slow cookers.) Chef John uses an immersion blender to smooth the mixture at this point, but I found the crushed tomatoes were pretty well broken down by the long cooking process. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, using a saucer or bowl to push the mixture down. This can take some time and effort, so be patient. Cool and refrigerate in an airtight container. Yields about 750 ml (3 cups).
Tester's notes: Jocular John keeps saying you have to be crazy to make this, since the recipe is designed to end up tasting pretty much like that store-bought stuff you already have in your fridge. I would say it tastes better, fresher somehow, and of course, it also allows you to modify things. (For instance, I added twice as much garlic, completely by accident, and that turned out just fine.) I would probably cut back on the sugar next time, and maybe swap in brown sugar to add a little caramel flavour.
375 ml (11/2 cups) ketchup
2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground mace
2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground coriander
2 ml (1/2 tsp) dry mustard
1 ml (1/4 tsp) ground ginger
1 ml (1/4 tsp) cayenne pepper
1/2 ml (1/8 tsp) ground cloves
In a medium bowl, stir all ingredients together. Let sit for a few minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings. Store in the fridge in an airtight container. Yields 375 ml (11/2 cups).
Tester's notes: This is a basic recipe that can be modified to suit your tastes. I ended up using more mustard and cayenne for a bit more bite. It does take some time for the flavours and the heat to develop, though, so first add the initial amounts, then wait a while and taste the mixture before you go crazy with the hot pepper.