Ketchup lesson 1: Boil the crap out of it

My first run at making ketchup. This recipe uses cranberries and apples and includes no tomatoes.

I think there are basically two types of people in this world: Those who eat ketchup, and those who don’t. I don’t, and I am constantly forced to watch out for friends and family who ask if I want to share fries and then, when I say yes, dump a pile of red goo all over it. As far as I’m concerned, that ends the sharing.

Therefore, it was with a great sense of irony that I spent the past two months researching ketchup recipes. As with all my time-sucking endeavors, this one started with G.

My mom brought me a recipe for Ann Landers’ meatloaf, and I wasn’t going to make it because meatloaf is also on my list of no-go foods. But Mom swore it was really good meatloaf, and G. would love it, and she doesn’t usually eat meatloaf either . . . and then she told me a story about how Ann Landers published the recipe in her advice column decades ago. Readers kept asking for it, and she would occasionally reprint it. And then finally, she printed it and said it was the last time she was ever running it and anyone who wanted it should write it down. So, one of Mom’s friends did, and then she later gave it to my mom.

That’s a pretty good story, so I agreed to make the meatloaf. Sure enough, G. loved it. But, he was distressed by our use of commercially prepared ketchup. Noting that we have a lot of tomatoes in the summer, he suggested I make ketchup. I said, “Sure, I can do that,” but I was thinking, “I hate ketchup.”

Anyway, I had just started my food history class and had access to Kendall College’s library, with its big collection of cookbooks. I started photocopying ketchup recipes.

I made a test run last week with a recipe that uses apples and cranberries in place of tomatoes. We still had cranberries in our freezer from last fall, and tomatoes aren’t in season now, so it seemed like a more sustainable, eat-local and _ dare I say _ politically correct way to experiment.

It started out fine. I cooked the onions and fruit, pureed it all with a hand blender and then added vinegar, brown sugar and spices. Then I left it on the stove to simmer, but I must not have had the flame turned up enough because it didn’t thicken.

After a couple of hours, all I had was with a pot of runny, cranberry-colored vinegar. I debated trying to can it or just throwing it out, but I knew G. wouldn’t have given up. Confronted with engineering problems, he’ll just hammer away at them until he finds a solution.

Knowing he expects nothing less of me, I put the pan back on the stove, turned up the heat and boiled the crap out of it.  About 40 minutes later, I had a cranberry-colored sauce the consistency of ketchup. I canned it as directed and put the jars in a cabinet to mellow. The recipe says the ketchup will be “ready for serving in a few days, but the flavors will continue to mellow for several weeks.”

Maybe then I’ll like it. Who knows?

In the meantime, here are the recipes:

Ann Landers’ (slightly adapted) Meatloaf

2 pounds ground round beef

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (We make our own by throwing slices of bread in a food processor.)

3/4 cup ketchup (Be brave and make your own.)

1 teaspoon Accent seasoning

1/2 cup warm water

1 package Lipton Onion Soup (the dry mix)

8 ounces tomato sauce (Again, make your own.)

Mix all ingredients except tomato sauce into a loaf. Put in pan, top with tomato sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.

Apple Cranberry Ketchup

(A small confession: I have so many ketchup recipes, I am no longer sure where this one came from.)

1 1/2 cups chopped mild onion

4 strips orange zest, with white pitch scrapped off

4 cup water

4 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)

6 tart apples, peeled, cored, quartered

2 cups cider vinegar

1 1/4 cups brown sugar

2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Bring water, onions and orange zest to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until onions are tender and translucent.

Add cranberries and apples to the onion mixture and return to boil. Partially cover and simmer until fruit is very soft, about 15 minutes. Puree mixture with hand blender. (Learn from another of my mistakes: For a smooth texture and to get rid of slivers of berry skins, pass the puree through a food mill with fine mesh sieve.)

Return mixture to pan and add vinegar, brown sugar, salt, mustard, cloves, ginger and cinnamon. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until it’s the desired consistency. Stir often to keep ketchup from scorching.

Can in half-pint jars in a rolling water bath, leaving 1/4-inch headspace and processing for 20 minutes.

The ketchup will be ready to serve in several days, but the flavors will continue to mellow for a couple of weeks.



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