I have been musing about the idea of gourmet ketchup for too many years now.
It probably started in a college eatery in Pittsburgh, the Original Hot Dog Shop. Students called it the “The O” and a large fry was literally the entire frier basked dumped over an ironically small paper basket. These fries were frequently perfectly cooked and well-salted. Needless to say, if you were going to gorge on that many fries in one sitting (and what self respecting college student could turn that many calories down?), you probably were going to eat some ketchup. They had their own private label ketchup, but it didn’t taste like the thick, bright red, syrupy goop that I ate at home. It was a deeper color, thinner and slightly spicier. I wondered why people ate bad ketchup?
Fast-forward some years, and I stumbled across Skillet Street Food in Seattle, WA. So many have already sung its praises, I won’t go into details here (okay, I have to say that chopped sage on fries should not be missed.) On my first visit, and most since, I’ve enjoyed their homemade ketchup. Thinner than commercial ketchup and with a real tomato flavor, it re-invigorated my desire for the perfect ketchup. I strongly suspect there is no one correct answer – different moods and foods will require different qualities. The possibilities seem endless.
So, last weekend, I began my quest with a scaled down, and slightly modified version of a Honey Ketchup recipe from Preserving Food without Canning or Freezing.
Small Batch Spicy Ketchup
1 lb. ripe heirloom sauce tomatoes, chopped
½ a sweet red pepper, chopped
1 tsp fresh marjoram, minced
1 tsp fresh basil, minced
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 scant pinch ground cloves
¾ tsp smoked Spanish paprika
¼ tsp salt
1 ¼ tbsp honey
¼ cup white wine vinegar
Combine ingredients and simmer over medium low heat for about 30 minutes. Run ingredients through a food mill and return to heat. Simmer slowly for about an hour or until the consistency meets your needs. (It will set up slightly in the refrigerator.) Remove from heat and refrigerate. I was able to serve it about 2 hours after it came off the stove.
The result was much spicier than I had expected, had a deep brown-red color, and tasted excellent. Best of all it smelled definitively of ketchup. The spices were powerful – the smoked paprika and cayenne pepper were obvious, the tomato flavor taking more of a backseat.
So what’s next? I have already procured several extremely early recipes (for “catsup”) and countless newer recipes. My immediate goal is to create a clean variant with a strong garlic finish.