Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

The following 101, on homemade ketchup, comes from HOMEGROWN member Jenni, the goddess behind the blog Domestic Efforts. Thanks so much, Jenni, and please keep the good ideas simmering!

You can spend weeks canning tomatoes in different ways. Whole tomatoes. Crushed tomatoes. Salsas. But you don’t have to have 20 pounds of tomatoes in order to do something delicious with them.

Below, I focus on ketchup, which I always assumed was a magical condiment impossible to make at home. Silly me! Like pretty much everything else I once ate in processed form, ketchup is easy to make and fun to experiment with.

Just as we were about to run out of our store-bought ketchup, Julia of What Julia Ate posted her recipe for the Tigress Can Jam. I don't own a slow cooker, so I took parts of her recipe, parts of the Joy of Cooking recipe that she modified, and parts from the Ball Blue Book. Since I didn't have nearly the amount of tomatoes any of those recipes called for, I did some calculations to create my own small batch. Here it is!


Yields 4 half pints


» 6 lbs tomatoes

» 1 red bell pepper, diced

» 1 large onion, diced

» ¼ cup dark brown sugar

» 2/3 cup cider vinegar


Prepare a spice pack (cheesecloth works well!) with the following ingredients:

» half a cinnamon stick

» ¾ tsp mustard seed

»  1 tsp whole allspice

» 1 tsp celery seed

» 1 bay leaf

» 1 tsp whole black peppercorns

» 1 peeled clove of garlic

» 1 tsp salt

» 1 tsp paprika


1. To peel the tomatoes easily, blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds then, using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a bowl of ice water and let sit a minute or so. The skins should come off easily. Peel, core, and chop the tomatoes and discard the ice water.

2. Throw the chopped tomatoes, diced onion, and diced pepper into a non-reactive pot and begin cooking. Stir every now and then to prevent scorching and sticking. Once the tomatoes soften, use an immersion blender—carefully!—to purée the mixture. Alternately, you can throw the lot into a food mill or sieve, but, like Julia, I opted to keep the seeds.

3. Add the brown sugar to the mix. Stir and keep simmering.

4. Let it cook for, oh, maybe 5 minutes and then add the spice sack. The mixture will become nice and thick. Keep the spice rack submerged but make sure you can grab the string easily, as I’m doing in the photo below.

5. Cook until the entire mixture is reduced by half.

6. Remove the spice sack. Add the cider vinegar. Blend well and let simmer another 10 minutes.

7. Fill your jars, leaving ½” of head space and process in a water bath. I saw recipes that suggested either 10 or 15 minutes to process. The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends 15 minutes, so I’d go with that. (Covering my ass: It is always a good idea to check a reliable source.) You can find the USDA’s comprehensive guide, Selecting, Preparing, and Canning Tomatoes and Tomato Products, that’s available as a PDF.

My outcome was a surprisingly delicious ketchup: sweet, fresh, and beautiful-looking.



Got a question for Jenni or a ketchup tip to share? Post it below and keep the conversation rolling. You might also be interested in the Small-Batch Canning 101, Rachel’s Canning Tomatoes 101, Urban Overalls’ Green Tomato Wine 101, and don’t miss Jenni’s 101 on how to make farmer’s cheese. You can always find more things to cook, preserve, make, craft, plant, grow, and boil in the HOMEGROWN 101 library.



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This looks so good and sounds so easy.  Can't wait to try it!  Thanks, Jenni!

Do you recommend using a paste variety of tomato instead of an eating tomato?  Last year I made ketchup using regular tomatoes, removed some of the seeds not all, and cooked it too long. The result was more BBQ sauce instead of ketchup.  Good tasting, but more BBQ than tomato taste.  This year I am growing some paste tomatoes, Roma, San Marzano, Principe Borghese and hope to get enough yield to try using a fleshier, drier tomato.  Belinda

This looks great!  I'm wondering though, any estimates as to how long it takes for step 5 - to reduce it by half?  Thanks!

Erm, what is a non-reactive pot? I've not come across that term before.

One that does not react with acidic foods.  Le Creuset is non reactive.  Don't know of others.  You can google it.  

Hey, Jana: Ceramic and stainless steel both count as nonreactive. Here's a pretty good explanation, from The Kitchn.

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