26 September 2010

Catching up with Ketchup (And Other Tomatoey Goods)

Did you know that the idea of ketchup started off as a salty, vinegary fish paste? At least according to the book Salt: A World History. Thank goodness for New World Tomatoes, huh? Not that I have anything against fish or paste made from them after they're dried and salted, but it's not what I want on top of my burger.

As you might suspect by now, I got a lot of tomatoes and processed them into a bunch of interesting forms; ketchup, salsa, sauce, paste, diced and quartered. Let me tell you, it was a lot of blanching and peeling. Fortunately, that gets quicker with only a bit of experience. The thing to keep in mind, of course, is that you want both the boiling pot and the blanching pot to be big, and if you have to choose, make the blanching pot the bigger of the two. After all, waiting for the stove to heat your water is a bit quicker than freezing enough ice to blanch with (unless you go buy some from the store...cheater).

The latter three on the list above (paste, diced and quartered tomatoes) are extremely easy. The paste is helped by having a blender, but dicing quite fine and mashing as they boil work equally well. And the diced and quartered need to be just covered with water, heated for five minutes and have 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon lemon juice added per pint when you go to can them. The processing is as all other tomato products--bubble the jars, and 35 minutes in a boiling water bath for pints (45 for quarts, 25 for half-pints).

Salsa is equally worry-free. As long as you top everything up with enough vinegar, you can put nearly anything in there. I forget our exact proportions, but I know we added garlic, onion, tomato, hot pepper, cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper. If you're canning properly, you'll want the vinegar to be hot when you add it to the jars so that you can put everything in the hot jars that have just been sterilized. Otherwise, you do run the risk of either the jars be contaminated as they cool or cracking under the thermal shock. Don't worry too much, though, as long as everything is at least room-temp when adding it the jars, there shouldn't be any of that thermal shock, but definitely don't add anything that's just been in the fridge!

So, now to the stuff that needs a recipe: ketchup and sauce. As these two products usually have many more ingredients and/or are less based on an acid, the proportions must be kept fairly close. Most spices can be done to taste, though garlic should be kept decently close as it has a bit of a different ratio of bulk to taste. Unless of course you want to use the ground dehydrated stuff. But that's up to you. Anyway, the recipes I used are as follows.

adapted from a lot of different recipes

3 pounds tomatoes, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 large (or 2 small) clove garlic, diced
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt

cloves, a small pinch
nutmeg, a pinch
cayenne pepper, pinch or so
peppercorns, some (to be strained out of vinegar after infusion)

Bring the vinegar to a boil, then take off heat, add the spices, cover and let steep for at least 10 minutes. (Alternately, you could put the spices in the vinegar to infuse a few days before at room temperature.)

Strain the vinegar, then add it and all other ingredients to a pot or slow-cooker and cook down until you reach your desired consistency. If you don't like chunky ketchup, you can blend this either at the beginning or end of the process.

Process as any other tomato product.

    Chunky Basil Pasta Sauce
Adapted from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving
via Just the Right Size
Yield: 8 cups

8 cups (2 L) coarsely chopped, peeled tomatoes (about 9-12 tomatoes)
1 cup chopped onion
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup red wine
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
6 ounces (~3/4 cup) tomato paste

Add everything to a pot and cook down to the desired consistency.

This ends up being almost completely chunky, so if you want something that has a decent base of smooth sauce, but still with chunks, I found that pureeing about 2/3 to 3/4 of the tomatoes works beautifully. Also, the yield for me was dramatically lower when I did this the first two times (once when I didn't blend any of the tomatoes, once when I blended 3/4 of them). The third time, though, I let the mixture (with 3/4 of the tomatoes blended) sit in the fridge for a couple days (though I had only intended to let it sit overnight), and I got a much better yield. I don't know exactly why this happened, but that was my experience.

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