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How-To

Zesty Ketchup from Your Kitchen

As vibrant as salsa—and just as easy to make

Fine Cooking Issue 16
Photos: Scott Phillips
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The homemade ketchup on every table of Home Restaurant in New York City symbolizes its mission to feature the ingredients, traditions, and foods that are found in American cooking. Its main ingredient, tomatoes, is indigenous to America, and the condiment is found everywhere in this country. Unlike store-bought ketchup, which is too sweet and too processed, this homemade ketchup is zesty, fresh-flavored, and as vibrant as salsa.

No one knows exactly where ketchup comes from. Some food historians cite the Spanish escabeche as a source, others the Indonesian ketjap, and still others the ketchup-like English condiments that existed centuries before the discovery of the New World. Another group considers ketchup to be a purely American invention that was used to prevent scurvy on the fishing ketches off the New England coast. Early “ketch-up” was just a mixture of tomatoes and lemon juice. Sailors got vitamin C from both the tomatoes and the lemons, and the lemons’ acid also kept the tomatoes from spoiling during the voyage. Gradually ketchup’s ingredient list expanded, and people ashore developed a taste for it. Eventually, H. J. Heinz made ketchup a household word.

Disappointed with the overly processed ketchup available in stores, Page developed his own fresh ketchup recipe that’s easy to make. Preparation is uncomplicated: char onions for smoky complexity; toast coriander, cumin, and mustard seeds to bring out their flavors. There’s also an impressive list of more traditional flavorings and spices to be added. This recipe uses organically grown canned tomatoes for consistent and reliable flavor that also stands up to long cooking. All that remains is a long simmer over low heat, and  a good stir every 15 minutes or so to break up the tomatoes, keep the bottom from scorching, and distribute the spices. This ketchup keeps well in the refrigerator, longer if canned, and makes a great gift. Featured recipe: Ketchup from “Home.”

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