January 6, 2013

A Tale of Two Ketchups

If one of your new year’s resolutions was to find recipes for homemade ketchup, go ahead and check it off the list! (You’re welcome.) As someone who used to consume a ridiculous amount of this delicious condiment, I wanted to find a version I could make myself. One that didn’t contain high fructose corn syrup. (Is HFCS the root of all evil? No…and yes. More on this some other time.) Actually, in the amounts I used to eat it, ketchup wasn’t so much a condiment as a food group unto itself. As in, not “do I want some ketchup with my eggs,” but “do I want some eggs with my ketchup.” (Ask anyone who’s ever had breakfast at a diner with me. That beautiful glass bottle of Heinz better have been full when I sat down or there’d be trouble.) Don’t believe me? The best way for me to convince you of my love for ketchup would be my ownership of the best T-shirt in the history of clothing for humankind:

I will wear this until it is so threadbare that it can no longer
be classified as "fabric."

As for store-bought stuff, there are, in fact, a couple of brands that don’t contain corn sweetener. I’ve tried two of them—one completely unsweetened, and one with sugar instead of corn syrup—and they’re both very tasty.

Here they are:

Still, with my pioneering spirit (despite my urban rat-race existence), I wanted to see if I could make my own. I am pleased to report:  SUCCESS! I’ve tried two recipes, and to be honest, neither of them taste anything like the Heinz I know and love. But that’s okay! They’re both what I’ve come to think of as “grown up ketchup.” Not ‘cho kiddies’ ketchup, if ya know what I mean. They both have a kind of kicked-up flavor profile for a more adult palate. This is good and bad, but mostly good. The only bad is what I just said: if you’re looking for the flavor of Heinz, these ain’t gonna cut it. The good is, these homemade varieties add a great little somethin’-somethin’ without the semi-addictive properties of the commercial stuff. (I don’t know that ketchup is addictive in the sense that cocaine AND SUGAR are, but I do think it’s interesting that ketchup hits all the taste sensations except bitter:  salty, sweet, sour, and umami. [Part of me kinda doubts that umami is even a real thing, but I’ll leave the final determination to the culinary and human tongue anatomy experts.]) Think about it:  the salt, the sugar, the tomatoes, the vinegar—ketchup sets off all our taste buds’ bells and whistles simultaneously. It’s no wonder I want to douse everything in it. Anyway, these homemade versions give a little special flavor without causing me to go back for more and more. (And more.)   

Here are two recipes I’ve tried, and my thoughts on both.

This book rocks.
1.     Primal 51 Ketchup
This recipe comes from The Primal Blueprint Cookbook.

Ingredients:  (Makes about 1½ cups)

1 can (6oz) tomato paste
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar (Raw, unfiltered is best – look for Bragg’s, Spectrum, or Eden brands, available in the “health food” aisle of most supermarkets these days.)  
1/3 cup water
3 Tbsp raw honey or pure maple syrup (real syrup, not “table syrup,” which is usually HFCS)
T Tbsp onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp black pepper


Mix all ingredients in a food processor or with a handheld blender until smooth. Store in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator. (I like these Ball mason jars).

The verdict: WHOA, NELLIE! This was not what I’m used to for ketchup. The vinegar, garlic, and onion gave it quite a kick. I do admit that I used a garlic press instead of just mincing the garlic, and I think that probably made a big difference. Raw garlic has a bite! (And squished through a press, you get way more of said bite.) I think this would have been better with less vinegar and more water. (The consistency wasn’t what we’d normally think of when we think of ketchup. It was much firmer—definitely wouldn’t have flowed out of a bottle. You need a spoon to get it out of the jar.) None of this is to say it was “bad.” In fact, it was very good, as long as you’re not expecting it to taste like the ketchup of your youth, and can appreciate it for its own unique flavor. And I have to say, I think the tang, bite, or whatever you’d call it would actually make this a great base for other things—specifically, a homemade cocktail sauce. (Most of the bottled ones from the store also contain HFCS…big surprise.) You could start with this recipe, add more water, some grated horseradish, and you’d be in business.

This one rocks EVEN MORE.
2.     Ketchup a la Nourishing Traditions     

The second recipe comes from Nourishing Traditions, quite possibly the greatest resource for preparation of extremely old-school, nutrient-dense, traditional foods that made our great grandparents darn near indestructible, but that most of us would be afraid to touch with a ten-foot pole in our current era of (unfounded) fear of saturated fats, red meat, and any part of an animal that isn’t boneless and skinless. (Organ meats, bone marrow, fermented vegetables, etc.) I’ve made this recipe several times, and it’s a winner. The original recipe calls for the ketchup to be fermented, but in the interest of keeping things easy here, I’ll leave that part out. (I’ve done it both ways, and they’re both amazing. [That’s what she said.]) The amounts called for here are for half the original recipe.


1 ½ cups canned tomato paste (preferably organic)
½ Tbsp sea salt
¼ cup real maple syrup (Use less if you like.)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste…use more if you like it spicy! Or none at all, if you so choose.)
1 ½ cloves garlic, peeled & mashed (again, to taste – feel free to use more or less)
¼ cup fish sauce (be sure the only ingredients on the label are anchovies, salt, and maybe a tiny bit of sugar. No funky additives)

Instructions:  Put all ingredients in a large, deep bowl and mix well. (I like to use a wire whisk.) Store in a glass jar in the fridge. Keeps almost fuh-evah! (Not that it’ll last that long, ‘cuz it’s delicious.)

The verdict: YUM!!

I prefer recipe #2. I may have biased myself from the get-go, having used the garlic press for #1 and sticking with the usual mincing for #2, but I still think the latter is what my taste buds prefer. I like the kick of the cayenne, and the fish sauce gives it a deep, rich…um…oh, jeez, I guess the best word for it is umami flavor. *Looks down shamefully.* Maybe it is a real thing.) Like #1, this second recipe is not smooth and pourable/squeezable like the ketchups we’re used to. You have to spoon it out of the jar. (Actually, you could probably keep either of them in a squeeze bottle, but you’d have to squeeze harder than for your usual ketchup, and I’m not sure I’d store the one with vinegar in a plastic bottle. Acid + plastic = bad juju.)

Here are some notes about #2, in case you want to try it on your own. (Not that #2, hehheh. I don’t think you need any notes to help you out with that, unless you’re still in diapers, which means you probably aren’t reading this blog. And if you do need help with that other #2, ask your mom and dad. That is not one of the services I offer!)

·         I used less salt. Canned tomato paste is pretty darn salty all by itself, so I don’t think it needed much extra, not to mention the fish sauce. That is salty stuff!
·         I used about half the maple syrup called for. I was trying to make a lower sugar ketchup, after all. Maple syrup is better than HFCS, but adding ¼ cup of it kinda defeats that goal.
·         I used more garlic – about 3 cloves. (Good thing I’m single, HA!)
·         All of these variations are fine. The exact measurement of ingredients is more important for the fermented version. (The good bacteria needs to feed off the sugar in the maple syrup, and the salt kills the bad ones. But if you’re not fermenting it, no worries.)

Here’s the good news about both of these ketchups:

They’re made with ingredients that bring more than just good flavor to the party. (‘Cuz let’s face it: if all we’re going for is flavor, we might as well stick with good ol’ Heinz and call it a day.) If you use raw, unpasteurized, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in the first recipe, you’ll get a little dose of all the good stuff ACV is supposed to do inside us. The fish sauce in the second recipe is wonderful for thyroid health—it’s a great source of iodine, something many Paleo and low-carb folks are low in unless they’re eating a fair bit of shellfish or seaweed. And the raw garlic used in both recipes is allium awesomeness. Raw garlic contains compounds that are antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral, and may help as a blood thinner. And yes, the garlic must be eaten raw. (And the compounds are activated when the cloves are smashed, crushed, or otherwise busted up, including by chewing.) And hello? It also keeps vampires away. What more could you ask for in a food?

One piece of advice:  if you’re gonna be using either of these homemade ketchups, make sure your significant other likes garlic, too!

P.S. If you think it’s pronounced “catsup,” you are a total freaking ‘tard wrong.

*Amy Berger, M.S., is not a licensed physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical service. The information contained herein is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition.

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