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:
Wash all your tomatoes. In this batch, I have 25lbs of tomatoes.
Quarter your tomatoes.
Put them in a large pot.
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.
Cook until tomatoes are soft. I cooked these for about 40 minutes but the time will depend on your volume of tomatoes.
Drain the liquid. Don’t throw it away! You can use the tomato juice for juicing, for Bloody Marys or for cooking.
I put the tomatoes on cookie sheets to cool. Do not put hot food into the Victorio strainer.
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.
Here is a view from another angle. This is a totally manual system, the only power involved here is elbow grease.
Put the tomatoes in the hopper and crank the handle pushing the tomatoes down as you go.
Here you can see the tomato puree starting to come out of the strainer.
Here you can see the tomato puree in one bowl and the tomato skins and seeds in the other bowl.
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!
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.
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!
Chop the onions and mince the garlic. I used my food processor for this step.
Measure out your sugar.
Measure out the rest of the spices.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the meantime prepare your canning jars. Wash the jars.
Wash the rings.
And was the lids.
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)
Remove the cheesecloth and the spice balls from the ketchup.
Spoon ketchup into jars.
For ketchup, you need to leave 1/2 inch headspace.
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.
Wipe off the rims of the jars so you can get a good seal.
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)
Place them on the jars.
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.
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.
Then remove the jars from the canner. The jars will be hot!
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.
Label and put away.