Homemade Ketchup


First step to making ketchup...

“I would really like to make ketchup with you guys.”

While relaxing at the cottage this summer, that’s what our friend Carina posed to Cari and I.  At that point, we had hoped that the bounty of our garden would at least provide some of the tomatoes that went into the ketchup, but since our garden proved a bit of a bust this year that didn’t happen.  Not to mention the fact that to yield seven pints of ketchup, we had to start with 24 lbs of tomatoes.

24 lbs!  To put it in perspective, that’s about how much an 18-month-old would weigh (yes, we’re parents and have to make those kinds of comparisons).  Thankfully we live in an Italian neighbourhood, and many of the local vegetable markets sell bushels of tomatoes.  We were actually able to get approximately 50 lbs for $18.  Not bad!  We went on to use the leftover tomatoes to make oven-roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato soup.

Like many other canning projects, ketchup is a long, involved process.  I don’t think Rick and Carina expected it all to take quite as long as it did (and we didn’t either).  The resulting ketchup is very good.  Runnier than commercial ketchup, but still very tasty, much like the homemade ketchups you might have in a high-end restaurant.

Here’s the recipe for Tomato Ketchup, courtesy of The Complete Book of Home Preserving


3 tbsp celery seeds
4 tsp whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
1 1/2 tsp whole allspice
3 cups cider vinegar
24 lbs tomatoes, cored and quartered
3 cups chopped onions
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 up pickling or canning salt


1. Tie celery seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks and allspice in a square of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag.

2. In a stainless steel saucepan, combine the vinegar with your spice bag.  Bring it to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, remove from heat and let stand for 25 minutes.  Discard spice bag.

3. Meanwhile, in a large stainless steel saucepan, combine tomatoes, onions and cayenne.  Bring to boil over high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes.  Add infused vinegar and boil gently until vegetables are soft and mixture begins to thicken, about 30 minutes.

4. Working in batches, transfer mixture to sieve placed over a glass or stainless steel bowl and press with the back of a spoon to extract all the liquid (we used a food mill which was WAY easier).  Discard solids.

5. Return liquid to saucepan.  Add sugar and salt.  Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until volume is reduced by half and mixture is almost the consistency of commercial ketchup, about 45 minutes.  For what it’s worth, this step took WAY longer than 45 minutes, hence the whole process taking a lot longer.

6. Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars and lids.

7. Ladle hot ketchup into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot ketchup.  Wipe rim.  Centre lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.

8. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

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