Monday, October 11, 2010

Killer Tomatoes, Part II


Okay. I'll admit it: green tomato ketchup can be a rather unattractive colour... Especially if one makes it with brown sugar. But it tastes so incredibly delicious, that one will turn a blind eye to its unappealing dirty green robe.


I've hesitated to post my recipe for ketchup for a long time. I've debated with myself, hemmed and hawed, and for close to two years I've mentioned homemade ketchup, but I'd never written up my secret recipe... It's not really a secret, I'm sure that it is quite close to most people's old family recipes, but it is my pride and joy, so I kept it jealously close.


But here it is, a tweaked version of my regular ketchup recipe (which is an adaptation of this Branston Pickle recipe). My regular recipe is basically a 'clean out the fridge, it's gettin' funky in there' kind of recipe -but today's ketchup spotlights the green tomatoes I harvested in a hurry-  you can actually use any combination of vegetables in place of the green tomatoes. Green tomato ketchup is a very French Canadian thing, and many recipes closely resemble sweet relish. It is usually used to accompany all those traditional meaty dishes that are ubiquitous to the French Canadian holiday spread such as tourtière, and cipaille. But you can use this ketchup with just about anything! It makes a scrumptious spread for a sharp Cheddar or Parmesan sandwich, with roquette, tomatoes, and a scraping of mayo. Mmmm...


My recipe calls for 300-500g of sugar: it sounds like a horrendously huge amount, and I will not deny that I love sweet ketchup (despite an abhorrence for sweet pickles and sweet relish...), but there are several reasons for using so much sugar in ketchup. First of all, it tastes good: ketchup is a condiment, used in small quantities to enhance the flavour of other foods -you're not actually supposed to eat it by the spoonful, or lick the jar, though you might be tempted to do so. Second of all, sugar is a preservative: you can make ketchup with a fraction of the sugar in the recipe (in fact, many ketchup recipes you will find on the web call for  under 1cup of sugar for the same amount of tomatoes); with all the spices in the ketchup, you will still have a very flavourful product. However, it will have very poor keeping qualities. Even if you sterilize everything meticulously, and preserve in small jars, you will lose a few to spoilage. If you do decide to cut back on the sugar, halve the recipe; can the ketchup in 250ml (½ pint), or smaller, jars to minimize your losses; and consume the ketchup within 2 weeks of opening jars. Finally, using the full amount of sugar will result in a gorgeous final product (despite the colour): sugar renders the ketchup glossy glossy glossy. It will positively shine! Low sugar ketchups tend to be on the dull side (in more than one way...) You can use either brown or white sugar: the brown sugar will muddy the ketchup's colour, but will impart it with a caramel-like flavour.

Green Tomato Ketchup
Yields about five 500ml (1 pint) jars

2.5kg/ 6lbs green tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 medium (± 450g/ 1lb) onions
15g/ 3tsp salt
1 tsp each ground cinnamon, coriander, ginger
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp each ground nutmeg, cloves
300-500g/ 1½-2¼c brown or white sugar
3 cloves garlic
250ml/ 1c cider, malt or white vinegar
sweet corn, fresh or frozen, amount to taste, optional
1 red pepper, optional
1 red chilli pepper, optional

Coarsely chop the tomatoes and onions, crush garlic cloves. The ketchup will eventually be blitzed smooth, but if you prefer your ketchup on the chunkier side, chop the tomato and onions into small cubes, and finely chop the garlic.
Place the above in your biggest pot, add salt, and let sit for an hour.
While the tomatoes, onions and garlic are resting, mix the spices, sugar and vinegar, and set aside.
After their rest, the tomatoes will have rendered some of their juices: cook them over medium heat, taking care to stir the pot every so often, so that nothing sticks to the bottom.
When the onions and garlic are soft and the tomatoes are fully cooked, blend the lot until smooth. You can pass the result through a sieve to remove the tomato seeds, but it isn't really necessary.
Add the vinegar syrup to the pot, and bring to the boil, stirring often.
When the mix starts to bubble, turn the heat down to its lowest setting and let simmer until the ketchup is  reduced to the desired thickness: this can take quite a while, anywhere from 3 to 6 hours (if you make a double batch). If you own a slow cooker, now would be a great time to use it: just leave on the simmer setting, and keep the lid off. 
Stir the ketchup from time to time, to prevent it from burning.
If using, finely chop the chilli pepper, and dice the red pepper. These and the corn are optional, but add extra zing and sweetness, as well as colour to the ketchup (a good thing!). Add to the simmering ketchup.
When the ketchup is ready, pour into sterilized canning jars, seal, and leave to cool in a draft-free place.
When the jars have fully cooled, check the lids' seal: if they are not properly sealed, you can place them in a pot, fill with warm water, and bring up to the boil. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Let them cool, before re-checking their seal.
Properly sealed jars will keep in a cool pantry for up to -if not more than- a year. Improperly sealed jars must be kept in the refrigerator. Open jars of ketchup will keep in the refrigerator for about a month.



Bon app'!




* From the Department of Gadgets You Never Knew You Needed:

It's been a while since I last wrote about a useful tool, and this one is a biggy: the digital weighing scale. I just cannot wait for North American cookbook writers to get with the programme, and start consistently writing up recipes with weight measures. All European recipes are written up by weight; the British add imperial measurements, and the occasional cup; the Japanese use a combination of cup and weight measurements; and only in North America, are recipes written up in volumes.

(By the way, spoon measurements are standardized: 1 teaspoon is 5ml; 1 tablespoon is 15ml, etc... It must have something to do with medical prescriptions)

Volumetric measurements would not be such a big problem if they were standardized throughout the world, but they are not. For those of you living in Canada: have you baked a cake from an American recipe, and thought 'Gee, it really looks nothing like the picture, and it seems awfully heavy. I must have done something wrong'? You didn't do anything wrong per say: 1 Canadian cup measures out 250ml, whereas an American cup is the equivalent of 238ml. (In Japan, 1 cup measures 200ml!) It's not huge, but it can be the difference between a success and a flop. And if you happen to be heavy handed when you measure out your cup of flour... You might have noticed that a recipe you've made several times occasionally does not turn out the same way as usual. I often convert personal recipes (in grams) to cup measurements for the blog, and depending on my mood (state of mind and what not), 1 cup of flour can vary by 60g -which is more or less the equivalent of 3 tablespoons!

On the other hand, 1 gram of anything weighs exactly 1 gram anywhere in the world (barring slight variations due to altitude, but the variation is really slight, and your recipe will still be proportionally correct). There are a few things that cannot be easily weighed, such as ground spices, because they are too light, but for everything else, weighing them would prevent great many an error, and fewer people would give up on cooking!


 

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