It takes a large pile of tomatoes and a couple of hours to make a small batch of ketchup. However, the six quarter-pints I made for the family last Saturday will probably tide us over for a year. (Unless we dress them up for Christmas – the ketchup is an almost perfect Santa-“red”!) Anyway, as it takes a while to get from a to b, I decided that I would start memorizing a poem I’ve always loved: Czeslaw Milosz’s “Incantation.” This, of course, is in keeping wtih the family method as of late. Blaise has got the kids memorizing long poems. Tobes is working on “Casey at the Bat” and Bea is working on “the Lady of Shalott.” They each have a gorgeous, illustrated, Kids Can Press edition of their respective poems which makes easy work of the memorizing. So, while the ketchup-making was not quick work, nor did it provide a huge stock of jars, I kept myself busy with this lazy-day, weekend project in keeping with the family spirit. The recipe below is a combination of a recipe from an old Better Homes and Gardens special-interest magazine and Jeffrey Steingarten’s method in the “Ketchup” chapter of The Man Who Ate Everything. As for the poem, well, ask me sometime soon.
Small-Batch [Memorize-a-Poem] Ketchup
- 1 large onion diced
- 1-2 cinnamon sticks broken in two
- 1 tbs black peppercorns
- 1 tsp whole cloves
- 1 tsp celery seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1/4 tsp ginger
- 4 smashed garlic cloves
- 1 tbs salt
- 2/3 c white vinegar
- 8 pounds tomatoes [we used roma] ends removed, tops sliced off, chopped
- 1 tbs onion powder
- 1-2 tbs chopped garlic in oil
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp powdered ginger
- 1/2 c brown sugar
- fine mesh sieve/strainer
- food mill
- large spoon
- 2 litre measuring cup or other large bowl
- 6 quarter pint jars lids & rims
- an excellent poem i.e. Milosz’s “Incantation”
- Print out a copy of your poem and hang it on a cabinet [pants hangers work well for poems – and for recipes, too!]
- Place your open book of poetry at something of a distance from your workspace.
- Memorize your poem as you:
- Chop your onion and fill pot one with all of the pot one ingredients.
- Set pot one aside.
- Remove the stems of the tomatoes and rough chop them, placing them in a large non-reactive saucpan: ie pot two.
- Add the other pot two ingredients to the tomatoes.
- Set the heat below this pot to medium-high.
- Over the next 15-20 minutes, the tomatoes will begin to heat through and emit liquid.
- As this happens, use a spoon or even lift the pot up, occasionally to strain a portion of that liquid through a fine mesh strainer and into a bowl or, better yet, into a large (2 L/8 c) measuring cup. Be wary that as you strain off the tomato water, the ingredients in pot two will heat faster. So, turn the heat lower a bit as you go.
- When you have about 1 L/4 c of the liquid from pot two strained off, add this litre of strained tomato liquid to pot one.
- Continue to cook the tomatoes down, straining the juice into your now-empty measuring cup.
- When the tomato mixture in pot two is far more tomato than juice, turn off the heat and strain the remainder of this tomato matter through your mesh seive and into your measuring cup.
- BE SURE TO RESERVE all of the tomato matter, skins, seeds, etc. from pot two!
- Add this measuring cup of strained tomato juice to pot one.
- You will have added a total of 1.5-2 cups of tomato liquid from pot two into pot one.
- Stir to combine the juice and the other ingredients in pot one.
- Heat pot one over medium high heat for 35-40 minutes.
- As the mixture thickens up quite a bit towards the last 15 mins or so,
- you will want to stir it more often and turn the heat lower as you go.
- Press the reserved tomato matter through a food mill and into pot two.
- You will have about 2.5-3 cups of lovely wet tomato paste.
- Discard the seeds and skin from your food mill.
- When the mixture in pot one has thickened to almost .5 a litre or 1.5-2 cups syrup, strain the contents of pot one through your [rinsed] fine sieve back into pot two.
- Use your spoon to press out every last bit of syrup from that sieve.
- Add the sugar to the mixture in pot two.
- Simmer and stir occasionally, ’til ketchiup is reduced by 1/3.
- Perfect your recitation of the poem as you:
- Fill pot one with a small circular rack and water 1 inch below the brim.
- [The ketchup jars are small, so you can use a regular stock pot for canning!]
- Boil the water, and then boil your empty jars for 10 minutes if they have not already been sterilized.
- Warm lids in a separate bowl of hot water stolen from the pot.
- Remove sterilized jars from the water bath and dry upside-down for a few minutes.
- Fill quarter pint jars with ketchup, leaving .5 inch headspace.
- Add lids and loosely-tightened rings.
- Place the jars of ketchup on the rack in the pot of boiling water.
- Bring the water back to a boil and cover, processing jars for 15 minutes.
- Remove from boiling water bath and cool on wire racks.
Have you memorized your poem, yet?