How to Make Fresh Tomato Ketchup and Can It – Plus a Victorio Strainer Review

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Tomatoes are one of the most versatile fruits. (Yes, they are technically a fruit even though the U.S. government might think otherwise.) Although I have used my Victorio Strainer many times for applesauce, I have never used it for canning a tomato-based food so I wanted to start small before I delve into the spaghetti sauce or chili arena. Ketchup is the perfect choice! I can make a significant amount without making more than one batch. I like significant amounts; I’ve never been one of those people who gives jelly and jams (or ketchup) for gifts in the 4 oz jars. It’s not that I’m stingy – if you come to my house and taste what I have in a jar I’ll give it to you by the quart – it’s that if someone doesn’t like what’s in the jar they’re just gonna toss it. All my hard work and all those wholesome ingredients in the trash. What can I say? Waste just goes against who I am. Maybe I will be brave and attempt it someday! But I digress. Although you can make pretty good ketchup from food storage, you just can’t beat the taste of fresh tomato ketchup.

 How to make and can Fresh Tomato Ketchup:

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 Wash all your tomatoes. In this batch, I have 25lbs of tomatoes.

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Quarter your tomatoes.

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Put them in a large pot.

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I just use my water bath canning pot since it has an enamel coating. Be sure that you are using a non-reactive pot. If you don’t your ketchup might taste metallic or have an “off” taste.

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Cook until tomatoes are soft. I cooked these for about 40 minutes but the time will depend on your volume of tomatoes.

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Drain the liquid. Don’t throw it away! You can use the tomato juice for juicing, for Bloody Marys or for cooking.

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I put the tomatoes on cookie sheets to cool. Do not put hot food into the Victorio strainer.

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Here you can see a picture of the Victorio strainer when it’s set up. Victorio has great directions about how to set up the strainer on their blog.  It’s not hard or complicated but it’s even easier when there is a video showing you how to set it up.

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Here is a view from another angle. This is a totally manual system, the only power involved here is elbow grease.

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Put the tomatoes in the hopper and crank the handle pushing the tomatoes down as you go.

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Here you can see the tomato puree starting to come out of the strainer.

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Here you can see the tomato puree in one bowl and the tomato skins and seeds in the other bowl.

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There was a bit of splatter with the tomatoes. I do not have this problem with apples. I think the difference is that the applesauce is thicker or heavier. In any case, we just draped some aluminum foil over the bowl and part of the strainer. One thing I found is that the more I pushed on the tomatoes in the hopper the more “liquidy” the contents of the hopper became. I think this was part of the splashing problem as well. The problem was that the strainer needs solid parts going through it to work properly otherwise you turn and turn and nothing happens but a lot of splashing. To solve this problem we simply placed the contents of the bowl with the skins and seeds back in the hopper. In a sense, we restrained the solids, but not to get more liquid out of them. Instead, we needed the solids to go through the strainer to get the mushy tomato puree through. This worked very well to solve the problem!

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Since it’s only me working,  I usually don’t make a recipe and can it in the same day. If you have help in the kitchen or have a canning party you can skip this step. I placed my tomato puree in plastic bowls and placed them in the refrigerator overnight.

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To make ketchup we will require a little bit of “cal cu latating” as my husband would say. Yes, it’s a bit of math but it’s not hard. Hang with me, it’ll be worth it! From 25 lbs of tomatoes, I wound up with 22 cups of tomato puree. Here are my ingredients for 22 cups.

  • 1 1/3c white onion
  • 7 T minced garlic
  • 2 c + 1 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 c + 2 T sugar
  • 3 T + 1/4 t kosher salt
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 3 T + 1/4 t coriander seed
  • 3 T + 1/4 t yellow mustard seed
  • 3 T + 1/4 t brown mustard seed
  • 3 T + 1/4 t black peppercorn
  • 1 T + 1 t allspice berries
  • 4 cinnamon sticks

The problem comes when you don’t have 22 cups, even if you started out with 25 lbs of tomatoes. Usually, this is not a big deal when canning jelly or jam and I just make an educated guess to add or subtract ingredients (usually sugar….what’s some sugar more or less?) but this recipe has a lot of spices. Guessing with spices can be tricky so here’s what I do. I break the recipe down to one cup. In other words here is what you need per cup.

  • 1 T white onion
  • 1 t minced garlic
  • 1 T + 1 t + 1/2 t apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1/4 t + 1/8 t kosher salt
  • 1/4 piece bay leaves
  • 1/4 t + 1/8 t coriander seed
  • 1/4 t + 1/8 t yellow mustard seed
  • 1/4 t + 1/8 t brown mustard seed
  • 1/4 t + 1/8 t black peppercorn
  • 1/8 t allspice berries
  • 1 per every 5 cups cinnamon sticks

Now, simply multiply these ingredients times as many cups of puree as you wind up with. See, I told you it would be worth it – I did almost all the math for you!

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Chop the onions and mince the garlic. I used my food processor for this step.

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Measure out your sugar.

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Measure out the rest of the spices.

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My recipe calls for the “normal size” bay leaves that most people can find in the grocery store by a common manufacturer. I found these bigger bay leaves at an Indian grocery store so here I’m cutting them into the common size my recipe calls for.

how-to-make-can-ketchup-victorio-strainer

I had planned to place all my ingredients in cheesecloth however this cheesecloth seemed to have big holes and I was afraid I’d have to fish all my seasoning out of my ketchup before I canned it.

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Luckily, I have these tea infusers. So I filled them up with the smaller spices and left the bigger spices in the cheesecloth. If you’re in the market to buy an infuser I think this one would be perfect for recipes like this.

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Add the onions, garlic, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt and remaining spices to the puree. Cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens, about an hour and a half.

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In the meantime prepare your canning jars. Wash the jars.

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Wash the rings.

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And was the lids.

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Sterilizing jars and lids is not necessary for processing times of 10 minutes or longer, I place them in the oven at 200 degrees to keep them warm. Place all your lids and rings in a small pot. I bring this pot to a boil briefly and then turn it to low to keep it hot. This is to loosen the seal so you will have a good seal between the lid and the jar. (Update: Ball no longer recommends doing this. So after you’ve washed your lids just place them in a bowl and set them aside until your ready to use them)

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Remove the cheesecloth and the spice balls from the ketchup.

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Spoon ketchup into jars.

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For ketchup, you need to leave 1/2 inch headspace.

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Remove the air bubbles from the jars. Although it seems I can never get them all out, this handy tool helps. The other end of the air bubble remover helps measure the headspace.

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Wipe off the rims of the jars so you can get a good seal.

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Remove the rings from the pot. This tool has a magnet on the end and makes it easier to grab the rings and the lids. (Update: Ball no longer recommends doing this. So after you’ve washed your lids just place them in a bowl and set them aside until your ready to use them)

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Place them on the jars.

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Place the rings on the jars and tighten “finger tight.” Finger tight means not too tight and not too loose. Just tighten them as far as they will go without forcing them.

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Place the jars in the canner. Bring the water to a boil and start the timer. Ketchup should be processed (boiled) for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. You can find adjustments for altitude here. To look up your altitude go here. Turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water for about 5 minutes.

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Then remove the jars from the canner. The jars will be hot!

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Let your jars sit and cool for at least eight hours. Remove the rings. If the rings stay on and the lid fails (becomes unsealed) while the ring is on, the lid may reseal itself. However, bacteria has already invaded the jar and the food should not be eaten; with the ring left on, there is no way you will know about the resealing. If the rings are off the lid has no pressure to reseal itself so if the lid seal fails then you’ll know and you can throw that jar out.

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Label and put away.

  • Mike the Gardener says:

    Wow! What a great post … now I am craving a hamburger to go with that homemade ketchup 🙂

  • Tammy says:

    Just curious as to the flavor. Does this recipe taste more like Heinz or Hunts?? I would love to try it, but with very fussy kids (only when it comes to Ketchup and Mayo!) I would hate to have all that with the “wrong” taste!! Thanks!

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Tammy,
      I know what you mean by fussy kids….:) But, here’s the thing, homemade recipes are always a little different. They can even be different from batch to batch depending on the ingredients. Commercial food manufacturers go through great efforts (some of it good, some of it not so good) to maintain quality control. If you’d like to consider a whole foods diet one of the first things to consider changing is insisting on that “standard” store bought taste. I don’t think this ketchup tastes like either Heinz or Hunts, sorry.

      • Tammy says:

        Thanks for the quick reply! I understand completely, and I am about to do it anyway…I think if the little darlings don’t like it…I have lots of friends who would absolutely love and appreciate it!!!!
        Again, thank you so much!

  • Dana says:

    I have been using my victorio strainer for years. But why do you not put hot things in it? I always put my tomatoes straight from the pan they cooked down in piping hot into my strainer. This also has it come out hot which helps me to prevent scorching when I stick it back on the stove.

  • Marcie says:

    Just saw this post on Pinterest! I grew up on homemade catsup, took years for my kids to decide they liked it. Now, they all want it! Even sent some to my son when he was stationed in Bosnia.

    A couple of things I do different (recipe is similar). I cook my onions with the tomatoes, then let them drain in colanders for several hours or overnight. I run the mixture through the blender before the Victorio. Those two steps give me a thicker catsup. I use pickling spice mix instead of the individual spices and no garlic. I let all the ingredients simmer until it’s reduce by 1/3 to 1/2. An electric roaster is great for this, no scorching!

    My recipe is based on one bushel of tomatoes or 1/2 bushel. You’re right, never the same amount of puree!

    Now I need to go fry some potatoes and put some homemade catsup on them! Yum-yum!

  • Victoria Turner says:

    Excellent post and am looking forward to trying it out. Just wanted to share I have used the Victorio Strainer making tomato juice, spaghetti sauce, etc. I put the quartered tomatoes through the Victorio WITHOUT cooking them first and have not experienced the splatter issue. I also put the peels and seeds back through the Victorio two more times to get all the thick pulpy juice I can. I was amazed how much more you can obtain after the initial run through. After I have all the tomatoes run through the Victorio I put the juice/pulp collected into a pot to boil and reduce for the recipe I am making. I have done it this way for many years. I generally use Roma tomatoes, but have used Big Boy and other varieties also.

  • Christy Parker says:

    I was wondering about using the tea leaf strainer balls. They appear to be metal. Do they add a metal taste to the ketchup?

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Christy,

      No, they don’t. You just want to make sure your pot, utensils or anything else you use to prepare tomato based foods are non-reactive.

  • Laura says:

    I am in a bind and a small panic right now. I have followed your recipe…but my tomato sauce is not thickening…I’ve had it on med heat for 1.5 hours now.behat do I do? Keep simmering this? It smells amazing…but how do I get this to thicken more? Thank you

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Laura,

      Yes, you can keep cooking it down. If it’s just too thin, you can strain it through some cheesecloth. Keep in mind that it will thicken as it cools.

  • Marie says:

    You don’t have to toss the jars that do not seal within a few hours. Just put them in the fridge and use them up.

  • Michelle says:

    What can I do if I don’t own one of those strainers? Thanks!

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