Catch Up and Ketchup: ARCHIVES

Readers, I have news. Food and Fiction is going out on the road again in about 2-1/2 weeks, this time to England. I will be spending a few days in London, a few days with friends in Lewes in the southeast, and then an overnight in Bath – home of Roman baths, Jane Austen, and The Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School.

Richard Bertinet is a French-trained chef and baker, and author of the easy-to-follow cooking and baking bibles Dough, Crust, Cook, and the forthcoming Pastry. He and wife Jo Harrod Bertinet moved out of London in 2004 and shortly after, opened The Bertinet Kitchen Bakery and its cookery school in Bath. I’m signed up to take a one-day Introduction to Bread Making class, learning Bertinet’s novel method for making and baking bread dough, at the tail end of my week away. Between the class experience and adventures in London’s food scene and a few days with Andrew’s laying hens in Lewes, I will have lots to share with you in real time and again when I return.

More news: for the past two weeks I have been hard at work on Food and Fiction‘s first cookbook, an ebook collection of 24 of my favorite savory recipes from the blog, along with edited versions of the original blog posts. The ebook Savory: favorite savory recipes of Food & Fiction will be available in a couple of weeks, and for iPads and iPhones only as I figure out what kind of interest there might be in having these blog favorites in handy, no fuss, 24-recipe collections for e-readers. Although the ebook is not yet available, you can take a preview peek at Savory’s first 15 pages (only please disregard the boiler plate set up of pricing and shopping cart at this time; none of this is accurate).

A second, Sweet: favorite baked goods of Food & Fiction will be next, and is in fact in draft stage. I’m happy to hear what you think of the project.

Both pieces of news reflect – I hope – my continued commitment to bringing you the freshest foods, mostly healthy recipes, and indulgences that are, if not exactly healthy, always homemade and intended for special occasions when we all need or appreciate a sweet or savory treat. Reminding myself and my readers of these passions has been much on my mind this week. The weather has been warm, the days have felt like summer, I am longing to have lots of fresh and local produce once again. I can’t wait to be back in the kitchen with peas and beans and corn and tomatoes and so many other wonderful new farm treats as well: goat’s cheese, local honey, fresh herbs, real free range eggs.

Readers who have been with me a long time know how much I like to experiment in the kitchen, to give unfamiliar preparations and methods a try and in turn encourage you to try out the unfamiliar as well. This is an especially fun way to get some kitchen time between now and the start of growing season. And sometimes, in the midst of all the fun I’m having, I actually come across something that is helpful, useful, and delicious too.

Like this homemade ketchup from a 2004 Gourmet magazine.

Have you ever made your own ketchup? I haven’t. Honestly, I’ve never really cared for ketchup, not even on a burger, and will only keep a small bottle around for the once or twice it shows up as an ingredient in a recipe for meatloaf or an asian noodle dish. (An aside: if you’ve ever wondered, as I have, why there’s ketchup in recipes for Pad Thai, it’s probably because the first sauces known as “ketchup” were in fact fish-based sauces from China and Asia.) But the recipe caught my eye anyway, probably because of this introduction: “…so much more delicious supermarket varieties, which are loaded with corn syrup.”

Corn syrup is not in and of itself a horrible product; as a sugar in a home kitchen, the rare teaspoon or so is essential in making pourable sauces or turning out certain sweets without graininess. But its insidious use by large food manufacturers means consumers might be eating more sugar than they know. Easy and inexpensive to grow and highly subsidized as a crop, corn sugars are snuck as flavoring into every packaged or prepared food everywhere. A quick glance at ketchup products on the grocery store shelf reveals only one or two products made without high fructose corn syrup.

When you make something like ketchup at home, you not only control the kind of sugar and amount used, you can also control the sodium level. This non-ketchup lover found Gourmet‘s 2004 version of ketchup to be delicious. It is 100% straightforward sweet tomato flavor enhanced with the slight smokiness of brown sugar and a bit of tangy acidity from cider vinegar, and is good enough to sample straight from the jar. Try it on the farm fresh eggs if you like, or in your meatloaf or also as a meatloaf glaze. You may never go back to store bought.

In 2009, the magazine updated the recipe to include a few spices. I have listed the earlier basic method below with the spiced preparation beneath as an option. Test whichever appeals.

Homemade Ketchup

  • (1) 28 ounce can whole tomatoes in tomato puree (I used San Marzano plum tomatoes)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste (the kind in the tube is handy for small amounts like this)
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt*

Puree the tomatoes, together with the puree from the can, until very smooth.

Heat a heavy medium sized sauce pan over moderate heat, and add the olive oil to the pan. Cook the onion in the oil, stirring often, until it is soft, about 8 minutes. Add the pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, and salt.

Stir together and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until the mixture is very thick, about 45 minutes to an hour. Stir more frequently at the end of the time period to prevent scorching. Cool slightly.

Return the tomato mixture to the blender in two batches, pureeing each one until smooth, and pouring the ketchup into a bowl or clean jars. Cover and chill for at least two hours for the flavors to develop before eating.

For the alternate spiced version:

Puree tomatoes as above and set aside. Heat the oil and cook the onions as above, but then add 4 garlic cloves, chopped, to the onion, along with 1/4 tsp salt*, and cook together, stirring until softened and lightly golden. Add to the onion-garlic mixture 1 tsp. chili powder, 1/2 tsp. paprika, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. ground allspice. Stir this frequently while cooking for one minute. Add the pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, and cider vinegar as described above, and cook for 45 minutes to an hour until thickened. Follow the rest of the recipe above to finish and chill.

*The simpler recipe calls for 1/2 tsp. salt total, while the spiced version will only have 1/4 tsp. total.

©2012  Jane A. Ward