My Dad’s Thing About Ketchup

My dad is on a mission to get people to eat less ketchup. But it’s not because of the ketchup. It’s because of the high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). He has an especially hard time wrapping his brain around the fact that most national brands of of ketchup list HFCS either first or second in the ingredient list. Yuk. So he asked if I would post an entry about this. And here it is, Dad!

One strategy my dad employs to reduce HFCS consumption is to put mustard or vinegar on french fries instead of ketchup, and I said I would talk about that, too. Golden mustard on french fries is truly delicious, though of course you don’t want to go crazy with the fries. Vinegar is very British, which is very properly appealing, especially if you decide to order french fries in a pub, not that we have a lot of those on this side of the pond. But I’ve had french fries with vinegar, and they were good. So there’s another option for you. 

A third strategy for avoiding HFCS is to buy one of those very costly organic ketchups, all of which are sweetened with sugar instead of HFCS. Do I think sugar is better than HFCS? Not really, but I do think that those high-end ketchups have less sugar per serving overall, so that’s good. But, frankly, it’s hard to recommend them with so many people’s budgets being strained nowadays. So I had another idea — to teach you to make your own ketchup instead. (I hope that doesn’t make you groan!) Yes, they contain sugar (brown sugar is sugar), but the total amount is less than the commercial brands contain. So at least there’s that.

Though it does take some planning (mainly your shopping list), it does not take much time to throw this together. You can try it out yourself with either of these two great recipes:

The first, called “Excellent Homemade Ketchup,” is from Hillbilly Housewife and, according to the website, contains just 60 cents worth of ingredients. You can make it by mixing together:

one 6-oz. can of tomato paste
1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp. vinegar
¼ tsp. dry mustard
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
1 pinch cloves
1 pinch allspice
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1/3 cup brown sugar  

Then transfer it all to a container, cover tightly, refrigerate, and use it up within 3 weeks.

The second recipe is from Kiss my Spatula. Made with whole tomatoes, a slightly different selection of spices, and a little more time and attention, you start by making up a spice bundle with:

1 bay leaf
1 stick cinnamon
¼ teaspoon celery seeds
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon whole allspice

Fold up the spices into a square of cheesecloth, and then knot it or tie it up with string. Then put the spice bundle into a 4-quart saucepan along with:

2 pounds roughly chopped tomatoes
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup vinegar
5 tablespoons brown sugar
1 medium chopped onion
1 smashed garlic clove
1 chopped anaheim chile

Cook on medium-high heat for 40 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion and chile are very soft. Remove and discard the spice bundle, and purée the sauce in a blender until smooth. Strain the sauce through a mesh strainer and return to the saucepan. Stir occasionally over medium heat for approx. 30 minutes, until thickened. Transfer to a container, allow to cool, cover tightly, refrigerate, and use it within 3 weeks.

Besides making them to enjoy in your own house, these recipes also make a very sweet gift for friends, neighbors, and hosts. Just remember to tell them to refrigerate the ketchup and use it within 3 weeks.

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