Big Girls, Test Kitchen: Ketchup

Picture this: it’s Sunday (or Saturday). It’s raining or snowing or way too hot to go outside. You’ve watched all the Arrested Developments and 30 Rocks and your Netflix DVDs are stuck in the mail. You’re a little bored but also a little enterprising. You need a recipe project, something time-consuming or unusual, something you wouldn’t ordinarily make, or at least not from scratch. Something that might involve some trial and error–might even not come out perfectly the first time, like ice cream or bread

So, for when you have too much time on your hands and want a recipe that’s been through experimentation and tweaking, check back for Big Girls, Test Kitchen posts. Below, the first:


It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I’m a ketchup afficionado. It hits the salty, sweet, and tangy notes I can’t resist in my food in my food, and though I’m sure I could do without the high-fructose corn syrup and red dye #5, I figure in small doses, it’s probably okay. However, when you stop eating ketchup with your eggs and start serving an occasional egg (or cauliflower floret) beside your pool of ketchup, it becomes more of a problem.

This really hit with the advent of spring and arrival of fresh dandolien greens, ramps, and asparagus in the market. I tend to make myself a lot of egg scrambles with vegetables when I need a quick and simple dinner, and nothing goes better with those eggs than ketchup. But–and I know this seems kind of ridiculous–I was having these really guilty feelings about pouring supermarket ketchup over the organic greens and eggs the farmers at the market had trekked all the way to Brooklyn to sell me for more than I can afford. I decided that a homemade ketchup would assuage my guilt without depriving me of my condiment.

Plus, I love a project.

In fact, making ketchup turned out to be less of an ordeal than I imagined. I wound up cooking it in my slow cooker overnight, because of timing, but you get the same effect from an hour or two of simmering. And though this doesn’t have the delightful undertones of Artificial Secret Ingredient #1 and Mystery Chemical #2, its saucy, tangy, and sweet-and-sour-ness will satisfy all your Heinzian needs.

From my kitchen, where even the condiments are homemade, to yours,



Some of the recipes I looked at called for an entire cabinet of spices, while some stuck with the basics. I took something of a middle road, adding garlic and a pinch of whichever spices looked conducive to creating the hodgepodge taste of ketchup. I figured if I stuck to 1/8 teaspoon measurements, no one taste would be able to reign supreme.

With the exception of the tomato, onion, garlic, sugar, salt, and vinegar, all the ingredients really are optional. Use what you have – it all cooks down together in the end.

Homemade Ketchup
Makes about a pint


1 (28 ounce) can tomatoes, preferably fire roasted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 cup vinegar (I used about 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar, the juice from 1 lemon, and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar; if you’re going to use all one, go for Cider or Red Wine)
pinch each of cinnamon, coriander, cayenne, clove, ground ginger
1 tablespoon raisins or currants
3 sundried tomatoes, minced (or 1 tablespoon tomato paste)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of pepper

In a large pot or Dutch oven, saute the onion and garlic in the oil until softened and slightly browned. Add all the rest of the ingredients, bring to a simmer, and cook, partly covered, for about an hour. Cool so you can handle it and then blend on high setting until completely smooth.

Chill in the refrigerator for about an hour before using, then go ahead and smother your grilled cheese sandwiches and sweet potato fries, guilt free.

  • Dumitru Caruntu

    Freedom for Basarabia (Moldova)
    A şaptea dimensiune

  • Kate

    This sounds like a delicious and way healthier way to start off the summer! I can’t wait to try this over the summer. Plus, it sounds like a great way to give Heinz-less countries a way to try ketchup, maybe I will introduce Engin to it!

  • Treehouse Chef

    I love Ketchup also. What a great recipe and without the high fructose corn syrup. Way to go.

  • Jessica

    Sounds delicious, but I take one issue with this post – its 30 Rock, not Thirty Rock! Also, if thats your humor you should get the DVDs of its always sunny in philadelphia…you will love it. Anyway, the ketchup does look delicious!

  • Jessie

    I have a deep, deep love for Heinz (and only Heinz) ketchup, but it is true.. but I’m intrigued about the potential uses for simple food. Hmm.

  • Scott Norton

    Phoebe! It’s Scott here. Great post!

    I’ve been working on a Gourmet Ketchup company: and when I come to New York, lets experiment!

    Have you tried making mayonnaise yet? I’ve got a rosemary champagne lemonaise in the works too.

  • Cindy Rowland

    Have you seen the recipe in Laurel's Kitchen for homemade ketchup? I'm sure it's not as yummy as your recipe, but it is super quick. It contains tomtao paste and cider vinegar and spices. My kids actually enjoy it.

  • Diane

    Just starting to make this ketchup. Says it makes about a pint, but there are 4 cups of tomatoes alone in it. Are you sure the amounts are correct? Thanks!

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