Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tomato Ketchup: August Can Jam

Okay, so this month's issue of the Tigress' Can Jam was all about tomatoes. How do I know? I picked it! So, along with my assorted eight tomato plants, I also bought fifty pounds of tomatoes from the nice folks who farm a few miles away from me. They were all heirlooms, and one case was "softs," and one was the good stuff. It was more tomatoes than I've ever purchased before, and I had quite a marathon. Especially since I had also purchased a case of peaches at the same time. Ahem. Can you say crazy person?

That, my friends, was a darned lot of blanching. I will also tell you this: instead of using a billion ice cubes for your water bath, why not use an ice pack? I did and it made things much easier. Especially if your water is running warm, just pop another one in. Ice is a pain.

There were a lot of things I made, and there are many things still left to make. Tomato preserves and tomatillo salsa are two of them. The chipmunks are eating all my husk tomatoes, so that's not happening. I made Fresh Vegetable Salsa from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and Tomato Basil Sauce from Canning and Preserving with Ashley English. I also made a ton of ketchup. And I know a lot of people are making ketchup these days, and I say Kudos! Because it's a long, splattery road, but the rewards are well worth it.

That said, I had a plan to make it easier. And it's nothing no one's done before. But I'd like to toot it on a horn, because I like the idea so much. And it's this: use your crock pot! Or slow cooker! Whatever you call it, just use it. Because then you can just walk away from it while it sloooowly cooks. Or let it cook while you sleep. Even better. And can it up when you want. Just make sure it is fully heated up before you jar the goodness. As a two-year old friend of mine says, "Oh, my goody!"

I used two recipes, one was the Joy of Cooking's Tomato Ketchup recipe, using it for spice and flavoring, and Food In Jars' Slow Cooker Blueberry Butter for measurements and inspiration. I made two batches. The first one was just from JoC, and it was way too much for the pot to handle. It took almost a day to cook and still it is rather thin, but the flavor was just what I look for in a ketchup. I realized I needed to make a smaller batch (ten pints is a bit much, no?), and to make sure I drained it before pureeing it.

8 cups of peeled, drained and puréed tomatoes and one medium yellow onion, diced.
Basically, I blanched the tomatoes to remove the skins. Then I roughly chopped them and drained them in a sieve. Then I pureed them in the food processor. I chose not to food mill it, and the seeds stayed in. I thought this might keep some pectin in for thickness, and also, it was easier. The onions were left in a rough dice, as I intended to use the immersion blender on it in the end.

Into the crock pot on low for six hours. For the first hour, keep the lid on. After that, I propped it with a wooden spoon. The next time I will keep the lid off the entire cooking time. Tomatoes have so much water I do believe they can afford this step. However, as in FiJ's recipe for fruit butter, fruit might suffer.

Then add sugar and spice, take off the lid and put it on high.
2/3 cup of dark brown sugar
A few cloves of peeled garlic
A spice sack: cinnamon stick, bay leaf, black peppercorns, allspice berries, celery seed
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 or 2 teaspoons of salt, to taste

I use these neat little packets that are made for tea for my spices

Taste it! Then can it!
Make sure the consistency seems right to you. Remove your spices. Use the immersion blender if you so desire. Then, having prepared for this step before hand, can it. That is, have your jars warmed and sterilized, fill them to 1/2 inch headspace, and process them in a boiling water bath for fifteen minutes. My yield was four pints, plus a little for the fridge.


  1. Wow, you have been busy! I'm intrigued by tomato preserves. Hopefully you'll share your experience with us.

  2. You are a genius! I am always so reluctant to peel things because of the ice. It seems like such a pain...but ice packs? Brilliant! I have loads of ice packs for stand in!

    And....crock pot! Yes! Can't wait to try. When I find tomatoes that is! =)

  3. Need to get my hands on more tomatoes now so I can try your fab recipe. Great use of the slow cooker and ketchup is sooo worth canning. This canjamming lark is so brilliant!

  4. I've been struggling to find (and successfully complete!) a good ketchup recipe. So this one is now on my list to try. It seems like it'll be delicious, I can't wait. Brillent on the ice-pack idea :-) I have a bunch of heirlooms that are waiting to be preserved as we type.

  5. Mmmmmm,ketchup. On my list. If I can ever get through all the peaches.. and now pears!

  6. I absolutely agree with you about the joys of the crockpot. I've made several fruit butters already this season, and it was perfect for my tomato sauce.

    I have a 7 qt. crockpot, which handles the larger batches with ease.

    -the redhead-

  7. Love the crockpot track - it makes perfect sense! I was not at all impressed with my recipe last year so I'll give yours a go. Would you change anything about it? Or did you already do that before the post?

  8. Crazy person, crazy person, crazy person! That's why we love ya. And how many good ideas can you pack into a post? I will never use ice for blanching again. And I'll definitely try out ketchup in a crock pot. Where do you get your spice sacks? (For some reason, I love the word "sack." I use it as often as I can. Stewart laughs at me because nothing's a "bag" anymore.)

  9. Denise - I have been! So tired. I'm plotting my preserves slowly. Waiting to see what some other folks will do. Might also make a tomatillo preserve. Mmmm.

    Meg - *blush* Aw, thanks. But seriously, the ice pack thing does rule. Making ice cubes stinks! And it freezes your hands off. And I think I've been using my crock pot all summer. It hasn't gotten a break. I love it.

    Gloria - Total! The beauty of this one is it's so hands off. So simple. You can't not love it. Tell me how it comes out!

    livinginalocalzone - I'd like to hear how your ketchup comes out, too! This one is very basic ketchup in taste, very Heinz-y. And so easy, you will def complete it!

    Kaela - I haven't even looked at the pears. They are in the basement...

    the redhead - Mine's a big oval (Rival), but that Joy of Cooking recipe was for 14 lbs of toms. Just too much! I'm totally loving the crock pot this summer!

    Shae - You know, I re-worded it a few times just so I didn't say "spice sack". Or "spice bag". I just say "sack" or "bag" and get all 12-years-old. (Smirk!) But seriously, those tea sachets (ha! didn't say it!) are from a friend who got them in an Asian food supply store, I believe. They are so cool.

  10. Lots of great recipes in your blog! I'm hosting "Canning Week" next week on my blog and I'd love it if you'd join our canning party! First post will be Monday. Hope to see you there!
    Jen @ messhalltobistro.blogspot.com

  11. Making your own ketchup -- brilliant! I thought I had tried just about every way in the world to preserve tomatoes last summer, when we harvested about 200 pounds from our little garden. But ketchup! Why didn't I think of ketchup?! Have been in up to my knees in plums and peaches and now pears and apples. Make some pear nectar today, and am on my way to the kitchen to do some more pesto. Isn't summer grand? :)

  12. Annette! I skipped you by accident! I don't think I would change much, except for the leaving the lid off thing. And I would do that as long as I could check in on it every hour, to make sure it wasn't a mistake. I love the taste, on the sweeter, tangier tomato-y side, but you could zip it up, of course. JoC adds pepper, but I didn't add any. Also, I would stick with leaving the seeds it. After you blend it, you really couldn't tell at all. Why bother with the food mill?

    Jen - Thanks for much! I will definitely check out your party. Keep on canning, is what I say!

    Lynn - Whoah! 200 pounds is a load of tomatoes. Did you say "little garden"? And pear nectar sounds divine. I just scored about 30 pounds of pears, so that might figure in to my plans.

  13. Just came across your blog after a Google search of 'apricot nectar'. I'm very excited to read your archives and learn a little more about a gal that likes the same type of things I do. Can't wait.

  14. awesome. How fantastic to have all those tomatoey goodies floating around your kitchen. Chipmunks? the idea seems so novel to me, I'd dearly love a chipmunk in the garden :-)

  15. Love that you use the tea filters for your spices - I use coffee filters, myself. Great minds think alike!

    I made barbecue sauce this time, but I'm totally making ketchup this winter!

  16. I love this post. I think we were separated at birth. I do the same sort of thing. Buying 100# of tomatoes, and then getting seduced by beautiful peaches, so have to get 25# of those. And what about that okra? Seriously, I wish you lived closer! Thanks for the ketchup recipe. I've been wanting to make some, and the crockpot sounds more appealing than the other method I heard about - drying it out on baking sheets overnight in the oven!

  17. I'm excited to give ketchup a go for the first time using your recipe. Could you share approximate measurements on the spices in the "sack"?

  18. Julie - Cool! Thanks so much for reading, and thanks for the comment, too! It's nice to hear!

    cityhippyfarmgirl - I know, they are cute. It's true. Until they take over. Then it gets old, fast!

    RJ Flamingo - They do indeed! Your bbq sauce looks and sounds amazing!

    Mrs. Wheelbarrow - I'm a big fan of what you do, too! We are certainly on the same page. Drying ketchup out on a pan will just not do! Go, crockpot!

    Anon - Of course, though keep in mind it's a rough estimate: 1 bay leaf, 1 small stick of cinnamon, a few allspice berries, 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon celery seed. I will point out that for me, it just doesn't work without the celery seed. It tones down the sweetness of the tomatoes, and adds a savory note.

  19. So after making ketchup with Hip Girls, even before tasting it, I have this itch to make more. (I also made homemade plum sauce a la hoisin and it tastes amazing, cementing my homemade condiment love.) What size crockpot do you have? And one more question - how long do you think this stays good once opened (in fridge)? I'm debating on jar sizes.

  20. Emily - Mine's a 6-quart oval. I'll bet this stays in the fridge a good long time. Six months? More?
    Btw, plum hoisin sauce sounds great!

  21. I don't have a crockpot, and I'm wondering if I could just make this ketchup in the oven. I always do that with prune butter: it's in the oven for like 3 or 4 hours, and the oven door is open a little bit (propped with a wooden spoon) to release all the moisture. What do you think?????

  22. Wow this looks awesome! I just picked over 30 lbs of tomatoes today. I already have most of my salsa canned for the year so I was ready to embark on pasta sauce and ketchup (for the first time!!). I think I will try this recipe out! Thanks! I'll let you know how it goes. Here's my post for nicely spicy peachy salsa: http://www.canningwithkids.com/blog/2010/08/nicely-spicy-peach-salsa.html

  23. Andrea - What a great idea, especially for winter! I'm sure you can do it.

    Paige - I know it came out great! That salsa sounds great!

  24. I must give this a try. Since I saw a short scene in a Doris Day movie where she makes her own ketchup I was fascinated by this.