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Ketchup in the Kitchen

March 1, 2016 5 Comments

homemade and store bought

homemade and store bought

When I was a child I visited the Heinz factory in Pittsburgh with my Brownie troop several times. One never forgets the vinegar floor of that factory, ever so olfactory. They gave us little plastic pickle pins as souvenirs of our visits. Although we lived in a big industrial city, most of us would not see the inside of any other factories.  I did not know until I was an adult that ketchup had a strange history long before it became the sauce we put on french fries today.

The original sauce was made of fermented fish and was used in China.  When the English adopted the word they attempted to replicate the Asian version using mushrooms, nuts, anchovies, beer, and spices, creating a thin sauce that did not resemble the Chinese condiment very much.  The recipe evolved and the anchovies were dropped in favor of walnut based or mushroom based sauces.  The tomato was not added to the mix for a couple of centuries.  Tomatoes came from the new world and were considered to be poison for a long time.

tomatoes

tomatoes

When tomato ketchup was made in factories in America the first recipes were toxic, not because of the tomato, but because of the processing and ingredients used.  They used coal-tar to make the color bright red, and used other very harmful preservatives.  Henry J Heinz was a reformer who treated his workers and the environment in a new way.  Eventually he met G F Mason, who helped him develop the food science he needed to drop the coal-tar and dangerous ingredients.  In 1904 he produced the first preservative free Heinz ketchup. The company was later bought by Del Monte and the old brick factory on the Allegheny is now a fancy condo.  I wonder how that got the vinegar smell out of the building.

Although I am grateful to Henry for his progressive ideas, which included food purity, today I buy organic brands.  Better yet, I enjoy making my own to create both a pure product and a custom flavor.  I have made ketchup from cranberries and green tomatoes in the past with success. This week I scored a large batch of beautifully ripe tomatoes so I was inspired to make some house brand tomato ketchup for our kitchen. I used date balsamic vinegar and maple syrup, a little honey, shallots, onions, and red peppers.  After I took out a couple of jars of this delicious mix I added extra spices to create a different flavor profile for the last batch.  Still on simmer in the crock pot, the thicker spicier version will be ready in the morning.  Have you tired making your own, gentle reader?  It is an easy project, and the results will give you a healthy, sugar-free product that is worthy of sharing with friends.

tomatoes

tomatoes

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