More Bourbon, Less Sugar: A Ketchup Worth Making

There are many reasons to make your own ketchup. The bottled stuff (even the most top-shelf variety) has an indeterminate amount of sugar and "natural flavorings" — what does "natural" taste like, anyway?

The easiest way to find out is to make your own, out of strictly natural ingredients. You’ll be able to tweak the flavors to your preference, pulling back on sweetness, if you prefer, or dialing up the spices. And one thing’s for sure: You won’t find bourbon in your grocery store squeeze bottle.

Maple-Bourbon Ketchup Recipe

This recipe is extremely adaptable to your taste. However, if you do wish to can it, do not alter the proportions of vinegar to other ingredients. You can alter spices interchangeably.

Yield: About four pints
2 quarts tomato puree
1 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup bourbon
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
7-8 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons fish sauce

Prepare the jars and lids. Wash all jars and lids thoroughly with soap and water, and rinse well. Fill your canner with enough water to cover the jars by at least 1 inch and bring to a simmer. Using a pair of canning tongs, lower the jars in gently, tilting them to fill with the hot water. In a small saucepan, keep some water warm but not boiling; place the lids in the water. Have an additional kettle of water on to boil.

Make the ketchup. Wrap peppercorns, cardamom and coriander in cheesecloth or place in a tea infuser and add to tomatoes. Bring tomato purée, syrup, bourbon and salt to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid scorching, until it darkens, thickens and is reduced by about a third. Add vinegar and fish sauce, and stir to combine. Remove the spice sachet, and remove sauce from heat.

Fill and close the jars. Using canning tongs, remove the jars from the canner, carefully pouring the water back into the canner. Set next to the ketchup in the saucepan. Turn the heat under the canner to high. Use a ladle to pour the ketchup into the jars through a canning funnel, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace at the top. Run a clean chopstick around the inside of the jar to dislodge any trapped air. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel. Place the lids on, and screw on the rings until just finger-tight.

Seal the jars. Using canning tongs, gently transfer the jars to the canner, taking care to keep them vertical. When all the jars are in the canner, there should be at least 1 inch of water covering them; if you need more, add water from the kettle until the jars are sufficiently covered. Bring the water to a full rolling boil; process for 10 minutes.

Remove and cool. Using canning tongs, gently remove the jars from the canner and transfer them to a kitchen towel or cooling rack, again keeping them vertical. Do not set hot jars directly onto cool counter surfaces. Leave to cool, undisturbed, for at least 12 hours. If any of the jars do not seal when cool, reprocess using the method above, or refrigerate and use immediately.

Label and store. Add a label to the lid or side of your jar, noting the date it was canned. Remove the rings and store jars in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Refrigerate after opening.

Sean Timberlake is a professional writer, amateur foodie, avid traveler and all-around bon vivant. He is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts, and has penned the blog Hedonia since 2006. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, DPaul Brown, and their hyperactive terrier, Reese.

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