People used to always make their own ketchup at home, until people such as Henry John Heinz managed to convince housewives that they could trust the safety and quality of commercial products.
Mr Heinz would likely be furious at what they’ve done to his products today. So laden with sugar and salt is ketchup now that it’s no longer an innocent little dollop on the side of your plate: it’s essentially tomato candy, with the bonus of as much salt as they can get it to absorb.
When you try to buy reduced-sugar ketchup; they up the salt in it. When you try to buy reduced-salt ketchup, they up the sugar in it. You can’t win.
You can, though, if you withdraw entirely from the ketchup rat race at the store: making your own ketchup can restore ketchup to being a healthy, good-for-you condiment again.
This is a recipe from Bernardin for starting from scratch, with whole tomatoes. It requires a very large quantity of tomatoes, so it’s best made at the end of summers when whole, fresh tomatoes are cheap. Note that it takes a long simmering time to reduce the sauce to the appropriate thickness for ketchup.
Alternatively, here’s a recipe to make quick ketchup that starts from purchased tomato sauce called “passata” — handy in the winter and when life is busy.
Jar size choices: Quarter-litre (½ US pint / 250 ml / 8 oz) OR half-litre (1 US pint / 500 ml/ 16 oz)
Processing method: Water bath or steam canning
Yield: 4 x half-litre (US pint) jars
Headspace: 2 cm (½ inch)
Processing time: 15 minutes either size jar
Yield: 4 x half-litre jars (US pint)
- 6 kg tomatoes (13 lbs. 6 litres / US quarts puréed finely in food processor. Measurements after prep.)
- 250 g onion (finely chopped. 1 ½ cups chopped, ½ lb, about 3 medium-sized onions. Measurements after prep.)
- 2 teaspoons cloves (whole)
- 10 cm cinnamon (stick)
- ¾ teaspoon allspice (whole berries)
- 1 ½ tablespoons celery seed
- 375 ml cider vinegar (5% acidity or higher. 1 ½ cups / 12 oz)
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon mustard powder (optional)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
- 175 g sugar (white. ¾ cup / 6 oz) OR 1 teaspoon liquid stevia
- 2 tablespoons pickling salt (OR non-bitter, non-clouding salt substitute)
Wash and peel tomatoes; put in a very large pot.
Wash, peel and chop onion; add to pot.
Simmer the tomatoes and onions uncovered until they are reduced to a bit less than ½ in volume. (About 20 minutes.) Then press through a sieve or a food mill.
You will end up with tomato sauce equalling about 2 litres / 8 cups / 64 oz. If you have lots more than that, your variety of tomatoes may have had a lot of water in them -- keep on simmering the sauce to get it down to roughly around this amount. (You may wish to do up till here the day before, then refrigerate overnight, and bring back up to a boil the next day and proceed.)
Tie the cloves, cinnamon, allspice berries and celery seed in a cloth, put in a large measuring jug with the vinegar, nuke in microwave for 4 minutes.
Remove carefully from microwave, watching for liquid surge. Stir, then remove and discard spice bag.
Add vinegar along with cayenne pepper, mustard powder, garlic powder, either sugar OR liquid stevia, and either salt OR salt sub to the tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, lower right away to a simmer, let simmer slowly uncovered until the ketchup reaches the thickness you desire on a spoon. It should be able to form a mound. This could take several hours.
Fill each jar with the ketchup mixture up to 2 cm (½ inch) from the top.
Debubble, adjust headspace.
Wipe jar rims.
Put lids on.
Process in a water bath or steam canner.
Process either size jars for 15 minutes; increase time as needed for your altitude.
You can use a food processor to finely chop the onion.
Yes, you must peel the tomatoes to reduce the bacterial count for safe canning: most of the bacteria is on the skin.
How long the simmering to thicken it will take varies wildly. The broader the pot, the faster it will reduce.
How to water bath process.
How to steam can.
When water-bath canning or steam canning, you must adjust the processing time for your altitude.
For stevia, Better Stevia liquid stevia was the stevia used.
For the salt sub, we used Herbamare as it is non-bitter and non-clouding.
More information about Sugar and Salt-Free Canning in general.
More information about canning tomatoes in general.
Australia and New Zealand vinegar strength special notes.
Source: Tomato Ketchup. In: Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving. Toronto, Canada: Bernardin Ltd. 2013. Page 80.
- Cut batch in half;
- Added mustard powder and garlic powder.
What changes can I get to get my ketchup the way I like it?
You may increase or decrease the sweetness or the salt. That will not impact safety. You may vary the dry seasoning. You may decrease the onion, but do not increase it as that would decrease the acidity. For the same reason, do not add any other fresh vegetable such as celery or green pepper. Do not decrease the amount of vinegar. You may use any type of vinegar you wish, but keep the strength at 5% or higher.
Essentially, ketchup is about sweetness, saltiness and dry spicing anyway, and thankfully you may vary those without impacting safety to work towards a ketchup that you like best.
If you want a recipe that uses different fresh ingredients or a different amount of vinegar, then you really are after another recipe altogether. There are many different recipes for tomato ketchup: look for a tested recipe from a reputable source such as Ball, the USDA, Canadian Living or your local University Extension Service. Do not use unsourced recipes found on the Internet or blog sites as they could be unsafe. No one wants to be dipping his / her French fries into a side dollop of botulism.
If you don’t want to can this recipe, you may also freeze it in containers for long-term storage.
Per 2 tablespoons:
- 31 calories, 222 mg sodium
Sugar and salt-free version
Per 2 tablespoons:
- 21 calories, 5 mg sodium
- Weight Watchers PointsPlus®: 2 tablespoons, 0 points; 3 to 6 tablespoons, 1 point.
* Nutrition info provided by https://caloriecount.about.com
* PointsPlus™ calculated by healthycanning.com. Not endorsed by Weight Watchers® International, Inc, which is the owner of the PointsPlus® registered trademark.
* Better Stevia ® is a registered trademark of the NOW Foods Company.
* Herbamare ® is a registered trademark of the A. Vogel Corporation.
Cooking with canning