It was during one of my pregnancies when I fell out of love with shop-bought ketchup. My taste became sharper and more sensitive to artificial flavourings and chemical preservatives, so I naturally avoided them in all foods. On one occasion though, I tried my mum’s homemade ketchup, and it felt like a discovery.
As a busy mother of three I never had time to make my own ketchup, so when my mum’s supplies were exhausted, I simply took it out of my cooking repertoire until, one day and a good few years later, I found myself lumbered with a pile of tomatoes from my friend’s garden. There followed a phone conversation with mum, and the next day my first ketchup jars were neatly arranged on the kitchen table, waiting to be stored.
Since then, I’ve been making this delicious condiment whenever I get hold of honest, home-grown tomatoes. This last delivery came from my son’s colleague garden in the warm southern region of Slovakia.
- 3 kg ripe or overripe tomatoes
- 400 g apples
- 1 medium beetroot
- 300 g onions
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 heaped teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 5 cloves
- 5 allspice corns
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1 chilli pepper (for the hot option)
- 250 ml water
- 100 g granulated sugar
- 100 ml white vinegar
- Peel and grate the apples and the beetroot. Thoroughly wash and dice the tomatoes. Cut off the stem ends and any blemishes. Peel and chop the onions. Wash and chop the chilli pepper if you want your ketchup hot.
- Put the apples and all the vegetables in a very large cooking pot. Add the salt, paprika, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and black peppercorns. Pour in the water and bring to the boil. Adjust the heat to let simmer for about 2 hours, stirring from time to time, until the mixture reduces by about half. Put aside and let cool down.
- Place the tomato mixture in a food processor, or use a hand blender to purée it. Fit a fine-mesh sieve over a clean cooking pot, and transfer a ladleful of the tomato mixture onto the sieve. With the back of the ladle, push the mixture through the sieve to get rid of the remaining solids. Repeat until you have strained all the mixture.
- Return the tomato sauce to the cooker, add the sugar and the vinegar, stir and bring to a gentle simmer. Continue cooking over a medium heat for another 30 minutes, or until the sauce reduces to a ketchup-like consistency. Remember to stir from time to time, more often towards the end of cooking.
- Transfer the hot ketchup into clean dry jars or bottles. Screw on the lids and sterilize on a baking tray in the oven at 80ºC for 15 minutes. Let cool down slowly and store in a dark cool place. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within 2 weeks.
As you can see in the photo above, we in Slovakia often reuse jars from other shop-bought products, but we take a special care to keep them clean and sorted.