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Ketchup, the Best Condiment (RECIPE)

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Sometimes when it's Sunday (or Saturday) and not super sunny--or too hot to go outside--I get a little bored. It's not dejected bored, it's more of an enterprising bored. When I feel like this, I usually need a project. That's most often when I cook something time-consuming or unusual, something I wouldn't ordinarily make, or at least, not ordinarily from scratch. Something that might involve some trial and error--might even not come out perfectly the first time, like ice cream or bread. Or ketchup.

It's a little embarrassing to admit, but I'm a ketchup afficionado. It hits the salty, sweet, and tangy notes I can't resist in my food in my food, and though I'm sure I could do without the high-fructose corn syrup and red dye #5, I figure in small doses, it's probably okay. However, when you stop eating ketchup with your eggs and start serving an occasional egg (or cauliflower floret) beside your pool of ketchup, it becomes more of a problem.

This really hits me each year with the advent of spring and the concurrent arrival of fresh dandelion greens, ramps, and asparagus in the market. I tend to make myself a lot of egg scrambles with vegetables when I need a quick and simple breakfast or dinner, and nothing goes better with those eggs than ketchup. But--and I know this seems kind of ridiculous--I sometimes have these really guilty feelings about pouring supermarket ketchup over the organic greens and eggs the farmers at the market had trekked all the way to Brooklyn to sell me for more than I can afford. I decided that a homemade ketchup would assuage my guilt without depriving me of my condiment.

Plus, I sometimes need a project.

I did some research before starting out, debating how much flavoring and vinegar I wanted to add. Some of the recipes I looked at called for an entire cabinet of spices, while some stuck with the basics. I took something of a middle road, adding garlic and a pinch of whichever spices looked conducive to creating the hodgepodge taste of ketchup. I figured if I stuck to 1/8 teaspoon measurements, no one taste would be able to reign supreme. Still, with the exception of the tomato, onion, garlic, sugar, salt, and vinegar, all the ingredients really are optional. Use what you have - it all cooks down together in the end.

In the end, making ketchup turned out to be less of an ordeal than I imagined. I wound up cooking it in my crockpot overnight, because of timing, but you get the same effect from an hour or two of simmering. And though this doesn't have the delightful undertones of Artificial Secret Ingredient #1 and Mystery Chemical #2, its saucy, tangy, and sweet-and-sour-ness will satisfy all your Heinzian needs.

--Cara Eisenpress of Big Girls, Small Kitchen

2010-04-06-ketchup.JPG

Homemade Ketchup

Makes about a pint

Ingredients

1 (28 ounce) can tomatoes, preferably fire roasted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 cup vinegar (I used about 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar, the juice from 1 lemon, and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar; if you're going to use all one, go for Cider or Red Wine)
pinch each of cinnamon, coriander, cayenne, clove, ground ginger
1 tablespoon raisins or currants
3 sundried tomatoes, minced (or 1 tablespoon tomato paste)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of pepper

In a large pot or Dutch oven, saute the onion and garlic in the oil until softened and slightly browned. Add all the rest of the ingredients, bring to a simmer, and cook, partly covered, for about an hour. Cool so you can handle it and then blend on high setting until completely smooth.

Chill in the refrigerator for about an hour before using, then go ahead and smother your grilled cheese sandwiches and sweet potato fries, guilt free.

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