The other day my sister asked me if I wanted to can homemade ketchup with her. She had noticed a recipe for blender ketchup in the Joy of Cooking and decided she wanted to try it. Since tomatoes were still in abundance here in Jersey, we decided to give it a try. Twenty-five pounds of tomatoes, twelve peppers, numerous onions and a couple of home brewed wheat beers (for the cooks, not the ketchup!) later, we were ready to go.
The recipe requires you to puree all of the vegetables required in a blender before cooking. We decided to cook the veggies until they softened slightly, and then use my sister’s brand new Cuisinart hand blender so that we wouldn’t have to spend a lot time pureeing small batches in her blender. The first major hurdle was that we did not have a pot or even two semi large pots which would fit all of those vegetables. Luckily, we happened to have two canning pots. So we chose to throw all of the veggies into one of the canning pots, and use the other for the 2nd half of the canning process.
My niece and nephew aided in the peeling of the tomatoes, which was made easy by slicing an x in the skin and simmering them quickly in boiling water.
With the skins removed, we chopped the warm but intact insides of the tomatoes and loaded them into bowls. We sliced the peppers into strips and simply chopped the onions into big chunks. Then we threw everything into the pot to cook down and soften.
Once they softened slightly, we began to puree the veggies. The hand blender worked great. It was sturdy and took care of the big as well as the little hunks of tomato, pepper and onion, using only a minimal amount of arm strength. Once that was finished, we created a bouquet garni of the spices, which included whole allspice, clove, peppercorns and mustard, to infuse the ketchup and dropped the bundle into the simmering mass of veggies.
Apple cider vinegar and sugar rounded out the ingredients. And then we just had to wait until it reduced in half. So we waited. And waited.
Eight hours later, after leaving her house to run errands, I arrived at my sister’s to finish what we had began that morning. Walking up her steps, I noticed that the scent of the tomato mixture had wafted outside. So at 10:00 p.m. on a Sunday night, my sister and I began the actual canning process, which is simple in theory, but a little labor intensive. We managed to set up an assembly line of sorts, and we were able to seal the lids and get the jars into the other canning pot fairly quickly. We did not have jar tongs, which would have been immensely helpful, but we did have a rather large and unwieldy set of barbecue tongs that worked just fine. The jars sat for 15 minutes in the boiling water, and then were set on clean towels to cool.
When we had readied the second set of jars, we began to hear the oddly satisfying pop of the lids in the background as they created the desired seal. About an hour later, we were done.
The final product came out really well, with a complex, more adult flavor profile than commercial ketchup. It was fun and satisfying to make, though I must admit that I am glad that this is something I don’t HAVE to do all of the time.