Homemade Tomato Ketchup

I love ketchup. And I’m not alone. According to research, we Americans spend almost half a billion dollars a year on our beloved condiment. We dunk our French fries in it, we douse our burgers with it, we even have TV commercials with catchy pop songs promoting our favorite brands – well, you get the picture. Yes, ketchup is A Big Thing indeed.

homemade ketchup going on burger (click on any image to enlarge)

But I’m here to tell you, my favorite ketchup doesn’t come from a store, or a bottle. And it doesn’t have a drop of high fructose corn syrup in it, either. I even know how many tomatoes are in each jar, because I grew them and peeled them myself! Yep, my favorite ketchup is homemade, and I’m here to tell you it’s not that difficult to make it yourself. The two main things you need are tomatoes, and time.

ketchup simmering in the pan

After a lot of experimenting over the years, my favorite recipe for homemade ketchup is an adaptation of the one in my trusty Ball Blue Book. Since tomatoes are the number one ingredient, it pays to choose them carefully, using ripe and sound ones. There’s no doubt in my mind that better tasting tomatoes equal better tasting ketchup. I’ve found that a mix of paste and regular tomatoes makes for a great tasting and thick ketchup. But really, any good, ripe tomatoes will make a ketchup that is way better than any store bought brand!

select ripe, sound tomatoes for ketchup

If you are looking for a recipe that tastes like the kind of stuff you get in a squeeze bottle, then this is not the one for you. As with all recipes for canning and preserving, you should be careful about changing the ingredients or proportions very much, lest you wind up with a product that is unsafe to eat. This recipe uses white granulated sugar for sweetening, which was the preferred sweetener in a 2011 Cook’s Illustrated taste testing of store brands. My version uses apple cider vinegar, less salt and spices, and omits the paprika called for by the original recipe. And I also leave the spices in for a shorter period of time.

jars of homemade ketchup

jars of homemade ketchup

Homemade Tomato Ketchup Print This Recipe Print This Recipe
adapted from a Ball Blue Book recipe

4 quarts red-ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped, with most of seeds removed (about 8-10 pounds)
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp mustard seed
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar (with 5% acidity)

1. Cook tomatoes, onions, and peppers in a non-reactive pan until soft (about 10 minutes). Press through a food mill or sieve. If you don’t mind a few more seeds, you can process the raw vegetables in a blender instead. UPDATE: This is the method I use most often.
2. Cook rapidly until volume is reduced by half, about 1 hour.
3. Tie whole spices in a cheesecloth bag; add with sugar and salt to tomato mixture. Cook gently about 25 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove spice bag.
4. Add vinegar, cook until very thick. As mixture thickens, lower heat and stir frequently to prevent sticking. This will take an additional 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
5. Pour hot into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Adjust caps. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.
6. Store sealed jars in a cool dry place, where they should keep for up to a year. Store opened jars in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Servings: 48
Yield: About 3 pints.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 29 calories, 1 calories from fat, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 99.8mg sodium, 134.9mg potassium, 7.3g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 5.7g sugar, <1g protein, 11.2mg calcium, <1g saturated fat.


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12 Responses to Homemade Tomato Ketchup

  1. Jenny says:

    Thank you! I have to try this now as I really want to have home made version of ketchup.

  2. Hot dang, I was just thinking about making some homemade catsup/ketchup, but didn’t know how. Now I do. Thanks.

  3. Wilderness says:

    Dave that recipe sounds great. I have never found a recipe I liked. I will have to try this if I get enough extra tomatoes this year. Time will tell.

  4. I’m glad to see your tomato ketchup prep went better than Tom over at Tall Clover Farm a few years ago 😉 (I don’t know why I remember that post so well, but if you’re curious about his results, they’re here, and good for a giggle (http://www.tallcloverfarm.com/625/how-not-to-make-ketchup ). Your ketchup looks wonderful though. I’ve actually never made my own, but hopefully, if we’re blessed with a bumper crop this year, I can try this recipe out. I haven’t purchased ketchup in ages, but every once in a while it would be nice to have some tucked away in the pantry.

  5. Marcia says:

    The “commercial” for ketchup I like is offered on Prairie Home Companion. Ever hear that one?

  6. Robin says:

    Oh boy…we just love homemade ketchup!! I use the recipe from the Ball Blue Book. It takes a lot of tomatoes and a long time to cook. But, it sure is worth it!

  7. Liz says:

    I must try your version – I make my own each year and try a different recipe each time. I find them all different but all good, as you say nothing beats home made tomato ketchup.

  8. kitsapFG says:

    I have not made ketchup in a number of years, but when I did, I had good success with it. I even had a recipe that tasted pretty similar to the purchased varieties (not sure where that recipe is now though!). It is well worth it if you have sufficient tomatoes on hand. Since moving from hot/dry central Washington state to the cool and often times rainy coastal Western Washington state, I have found tomatoes to be in low supply due to the different growing climate I have now and so have to focus what crops I do get into the base supply of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Oh for the days of swimming in tomatoes – I would have to move again to enjoy that phenom once again.

  9. I can’t agree more that there’s absolutely nothing that compares to homemade ketchup. Very nice.

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