So much of life comes from being in the moment and taking chances. When I took the chance to join The Canadian Food Experience Project, I didn’t know what I’d end up writing about let alone what I’d end up discovering. I certainly didn’t think it would lead me to green ketchup. Certainly not as a result of making my own Maple-Apple Jelly as part of my October submission.
But that is exactly where I ended up after I read Valerie Lugonja’s own submission on Preserving Our Food Tradition where, among other great recipes, she shared her secret of making “green ketchup.” Her own recipe found here is inspired by a French Canadian recipes for Green Tomato Chow (think of it as a cross between ketchup and salsa) — which as it happens inspired me with Quebec just across the Ottawa River from me. I was intrigued on a variety of levels, not the least of which was the opportunity to use up what was an imminent bounty of unripe fruit that I was soon going to gather in advance of the first killing frost. The second was the opportunity to do something new, something different, something I had never done before, and something that consistently makes people wrinkle their foreheads and repeat back to me “Green ketchup?” Finally, there was the opportunity to make a healthy version of a condiment that consistently gets a bad rap for being loaded with sugar and sodium … and pure distilled vinegar, something that Anne’s body doesn’t digest very well.
Thus the weekend after Thanksgiving the weather started to change and with sub-zero temperatures on the horizon, it was time to strip the tomato plants and see what I had waiting for me. In addition to the 30 pounds of green and semi-ripe tomatoes I brought in, I also found myself with nearly 6 pounds of unripe pear and cherry tomatoes — a staggering amount of fruit hidden from sight. I had plans for the regular tomatoes, but these gorgeous cherry tomatoes seemed a great opportunity to test out Valerie’s recipe.
As I cut the vines and pulled the bunches of tomatoes from the plants I discovered the beauty of these bunches. I ended up 4¼ lbs of would-be yellow pear tomatoes, another 1¼ pounds of actual cherry tomatoes, and I then rounded out the bounty with a half-pound of green Roma tomatoes for an even 6 lbs which, cleaned and chopped, measured around 18 cups of mostly green but arguably some that were turning their respective ripe reds and yellows too. And, yes, I could guess that green, red, and yellow would likely produce something a little more brown than green, but I was going for volume, not colour.
Before I share with you my own take on Valerie’s recipe, here’s the proof of how well it turned out. This is a tablespoon of ketchup on a slider bun on its side … and the ketchup itself doesn’t slide.
What is the trick to putting Heinz to shame? It is two-fold. The first is Valerie’s brilliant idea to use apples in the processing with the main purpose to extract the natural pectin from them to naturally thicken the ketchup. The bonus is that it also infused natural sugars, acids, and flavour into the ketchup that all really worked well in the ketchup, especially when I squeezed the cheese cloth almost dry to get as much goodness out as possible.
But here’s the second trick and why my processing produced twice the yield it should have produced. Yes, twice the yield. This is a huge difference (14 cups yield vs. the forecast 6-7 cups). I was really worried I had done something wrong such as failing to reduce the ketchup long enough to thicken it but you can see from the picture above that there was no failure in thickness or any other part of the ketchup. Still, I just wasn’t sure why I was needing more jars … until it dawned on me. Valerie used real tomatoes — I used cherry/pear tomatoes. This is relevant because these little jewels have less juice, fewer seeds, and are proportionately more ‘skin’ and flesh because of their size. The result is a greater yield of fruit and less reduction. In other words, 6 lbs of cherry tomatoes is more like 12 pounds of regular tomatoes. Bonus!
So park your disbelief, take a chance, and take a moment to make or taste this and I promise you that you’ll never buy or want store-bought ketchup again. Sorry Heinz.
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Stand Time: overnight
Cook Time: 90 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours + stand time
Servings: 14 cups (or roughly 9-10 cups if using regular tomatoes)
Green Cherry-Tomato Ketchup
- 6 lbs cherry tomatoes (approximately 18 cups)
- 3 lbs assorted onions (approximately 8½ cups)
- 1/4 cup Kosher salt
- 2 lbs apples, quartered (unpeeled and uncored)
- 2½ teaspoons celery seed
- 3 teaspoons peppercorns
- 3 teaspoons mustard seed
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
- 2 2-inch cinnamon sticks
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cups apple cider vinegar, divided (to taste)
- 1 cup (150g) brown sugar, packed
- 3/4 cup (150g) white sugar
- Pressure canner
- 14-15 half-pint jars with lids and rings
- wide-mouth funnel
- cheese cloth
- Remove the stems and blossoms from tomatoes and wash them well in a clean sink.
- Meanwhile coarsely chop the onions and set aside. I chose a variety just to be different, but yellow would be fine.
- Using a very sharp knife, “chop” the cherry tomatoes by slicing each into at least quarters. This is the most time-consuming part of the task so put on some good music and enjoy the moment.
- In a very large stainless-steel (non-reactive) bowl, layer one-third of the tomatoes, then sprinkle them with salt. Layer on top a third of the onions and sprinkle with more salt.
Repeat with another third of tomatoes, salt, onions and salt.
- Then repeat with the final third of tomatoes, salt, onions, and salt.
Cover well with plastic wrap (or you’ll fill your house with the smell of onions overnight) and let the bowl stand overnight. In the morning, you’ll see how much water you’ve removed from the mixture. See picture below. There is no added water in this picture.
- Pour mixture into a colander and drain. Return tomato mixture back to the bowl and fill with cold water and rinse well and drain again. Repeat one more time, each time shaking the the colander well to release as much water and liquid from the mixture. Make sure you have strainer in the bottom of your sink to collect the seeds!
- Add the tomatoes and onions to a 12-16 quart stock pot. Add the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves to the pot.
- Cut out two squares of cheese cloth roughly 8-inches (20cm) — make sure the square has at least two layers to it — and measure out your spices (except the cinnamon and bay) and divide them between the two squares. Tie the squares up well together so the spices can’t fall out. Add them to the pot.
- Taking slightly larger squares of cheese cloth, repeat the same process with the apples, dividing 1-pound per square and tie them up.
- Add in the sugars and 2-cups of the cider vinegar.
- Cover and bring mixture to boil, then simmer uncovered for 35 minutes, stirring regularly to make sure spice bags stay immersed and nothing burns.
- Meanwhile, prepare your jars and lids and pressure canner for processing.
- Remove from heat and then carefully remove the spice pouches and the apples and the cinnamon sticks and the bay leaves and place them on a plate in the fridge to cool. When cool, squeeze well the bags over the pot to remove as much liquid and spices from them. Do the same with the apples, but make sure they are well-cooled (they will keep their temperature inside the pouch) and using both hands, squeeze them dry, making sure not to rupture the cheese cloth in the process. Discard the pouches and spices.
- The cooked veggies into a large bowl but keep the empty pot on the stove. Now, in batches, fill your blender half-full.
Remember, never fill a blender more than half-full with hot or warm liquids, so take your time and avoid disaster.
- Blend the cooked tomatoes and onions until smooth and pour them back into the pot. Repeat until you’ve processed all the tomatoes.
- Add remaining 1 cup of vinegar in 1/4 cup amounts, tasting for correct acidity (not all tomatoes are the same) and return to a boil.
Simmer for another 10 minutes then remove from heat.
- Pour ketchup into prepared canning jars and fill to 1/2″ to the top. Clean rims, seat the lids, and screw on the lids until finger tight. Following the directions of your pressure canner in terms of water and use, place in the jars and close the lid of the canner and process at 10psi for 35 minutes. When canner has come back to zero psi, remove lid. Wait 10 minutes longer then remove jars from canner and set on cooling rack to cool 24 hours. Test each jar for a seal, then label them and store them in a cool dark place to enjoy your new favourite condiment on everything.