Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Homemade Kê-chiap (better known as ketchup or catsup)

The thing I love about blogging is that you discover all kinds of useless interesting facts.

Did you know that even ketchup was originally invented by the Chinese?

In the 17th century, according to Wikipedia, the Chinese invented a concoction of pickled fish/sea food and spices pronounced kôe-chiap or kê-chiap (鮭汁, simply the word for brine), reminiscent of Asian fish sauces and the various popular condiments of Roman times, among which garum, made from fermented fish, spices and vinegar. It found its way to modern day Malaysia, where it was called kĕchap, and then picked up by the British, who were already using it as a household staple by the mid-eighteenth century. Tomato only started being used about a century later and tomato ketchup was important in changing early Americans' perception of this fruit, considered poisonus by many. For a long time ketchup was the most popular way to use tomatoes, as people often still believed they could not be consumed raw. Sugar was a later addition and salt was originally used in great quantities for its preservative qualities. It was a popular condiment, made in most households despite being quite timeconsuming. The first industrially made catsups were thus very successful.

Back to me. The other day I wanted to make some burgers. After buying everything we needed for our meal, I realized we were almost out of ketchup. There was no way I was going back to the supermarket with a toddler in tow to pick up a bottle. I decided the time had finally come to try making my own. I decided to use a recipe I found in the Joy of Cooking.

Now, I was making this on the spur of the moment with what I had in the fridge. Eyeing my ripe tomatoes and my red pepper (hey, how lucky was it that I actually had one!) I thought I would be able to make just enough for our meal. I have very little experience with canning (another kitchen phobia of mine), so I was more than happy to make a small amount for immediate consumption. I also didn't have all the spices required and I had to approximately calculate the proportions according to my weight in tomatoes in grams (my math sucks!), so it was a real experiment.

The result was pretty good. The texture was perfect, if a little less liquid (note to self) when compared to the leftover store-bought ketchup we had, and the flavor and color more vibrant. The difference in taste was noticeable when sampled right after the Heinz we had in our fridge. We are so used to the oversweet, tangy flavor of industrial ketchup, that it is addictive. The spices in the homemade stuff had a more distinctive flavor, not so overshadowed by the sugar, which takes some getting used to.

All in all it was definitely a success and very satisfying, sort of like when you make your own cheese, butter or vanilla extract. It was quicker than I thought it would be and you have the added bonus of knowing what you are putting into it. The next time I will try using the same spices used in the original recipes and balancing them differently (I went a little heavy on the cinnamon because I didn't have a stick) to get a closer match but let's face it, the great thing about making your own catsup is that you can decide how sweet, sour or spicy you want to make it. The whole point is that it is similar, yet different from the industrial product.

I am posting the original recipe and my changes so you can play around with the ingredients and decide what you like best. Have fun!

Recipe and ingredients
The original recipe is for 10 pints. It calls for 14 lbs. of tomatoes, 8 onions and 2 red peppers. These are peeled, deseeded, chopped and cooked until soft. They are then pushed through a fine mesh strainer. The resulting sauce is cooked further with the addition of 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar, 1/2 tsp dry mustard and a spice bag containing:
1 three inch cinnamon stick
1tbsp allspice
1tbsp mace
1 tbsp celery seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 clove garlic
When the volume has halved, you add in 2 cups of cider vinegar, salt and red pepper to taste and let cool.

I followed this 3-step procedure using:

500gr small vine tomatoes (I squeezed out the seeds but did not peel them because they would be strained later)
4 shallots
1/2 red pepper 

1/2 bay leaf (then discarded)
5 black pepper corns (then discarded)
1/2 clove garlic (whole, then discarded)
a dash of cinnamon
a dash of paprika
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp brown sugar

2 tbsp cider vinegar


  1. Hey! nice photos!! I noticed in your labels you listed confectioner's sugar. is that actually in the ketchup?

  2. fantastic! I think I should make my own next time as well :)

  3. Nicole - thanks. No it is brown sugar, but when I insert a word, it automatically searches for the last ingredient with that word that I listed. Thanks for pointing it out, will correct immediately.
    Tandy - If you have the room to store larger quantities it is probably even more worthwhile

  4. I made some quickie ketchup last summer while we were flooded with tomatoes; love it! I am glad you decided to make your own and overcame your fears. Besides it taste terrific, and way healthier than the commercial stuff.

  5. Do you know that there is also an Italian version of Ketchup typical of Piamonte that is called salsa rubra? No cinnamon but basil! And a few other changes

  6. What?! Why is it always the Chinese? *pout*
    But haha, why am I even surprised? I think probably most civilization had their own different forms of ketchup.

    I really love the brilliant colors of this iconic sauce!

  7. I simply love home made ketchup... it gives an all new flavor to your hamburger, uh?!
    Nice recipe... I'll try it for my next burger-night!

  8. ToB - my fear is for canning actually, not the making of the ketchup so I didn't overcome it...decided to skip that step. And definitely much healthier.
    Pola - I never heard of salsa rubra, I will immediately look it up, thanks.
    Sophia - amazing how the Chinese really seem to pop up everywhere huh? And yes, all civilazations came up with some sort of savory condiment to improve the flavor of their daily fare.
    Giulietta - It certainly makes an impression on your guests!

  9. What??? You made YOUR own ketchup?? How cool is that? I will have to try this... Victoria LOVES ketchup so much (Too much)... at least she could drink (oops, eat) home-made stuff!!! Thanks for this recipe! :-)

  10. looks delicious, home made is always better

  11. I did not know the world was chinese! I mean, I knew that Indonesian soy sauce is called kecap and it sounds very similar indeed, but I never connected the two facts. I've always wanted to try and make my own, since ketchup is one of the few sauces I like, so now I have all the extra motivation I need.

  12. Haha your first line made me laugh out loud! :P I discover loads of crazy things reading blogs I must admit! And great idea making your own-you guys have such wonderful tomatoes there!

  13. It's still amazing to me that people believed you couldn't eat raw tomatoes! Funny how things like that lead to inventions that "get around the problem" like ketchup. Then lo and behold, you get a kitchen staple out of it. Where would diners and drive-thru restaurants be without ketchup?

    And I'm totally in love with that tiny blue and white crock!!

    Erika K

    Cuisinart 12 cup food processor

  14. Sorry - I have been having major issues w/commenting on blogger!!! I have to go trough 10 steps before it works for me so I am keeping my fingers crossed here! Good for you for making this homemade spur of the moment! How about this ketchup w/my horseradish sauce - now that would be a HOMEMADE cocktail sauce!!!

  15. This has been on my to do list! NOw I have to get it done! Looks great!

  16. I had no clue ketchup originated in China! That's my food trivia for the today..haha. This looks delicious.

  17. Very interesting...thanks for sharing.

  18. Manu - at least with the homemade stuff you will know what she is eating!
    Laura - hi! I agree
    LaCR - that is interesting, I didn't know that about Indonesian soy sauce. But I guess it makes sense since the word means brine in Chinese.
    Lorraine - you do find out about the weirdest things blogging, no?
    Erika - I was given a lovely mustard in that little crock, I love it too. Yes, strange to think that tomatoes were once regarded as dangerous.
    Care's kitchen - sorry to hear you are having problems. That happens to me too on some blogs I love and I find it really frustrating. Did the problem start after I changed my comment layout?
    Funny you would mention that about the horseradish sauce, I was making a mental note the other day when I read your recipe!
    Andrea - let me know!
    Divya - me neither!
    Miri - ' pleasure


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