Homemade Ketchup: Done.

Cutting plum tomatoes for ketchup

Cutting plum tomatoes for ketchup

As faithful readers know, a few days ago I set out on a ketchup quest, a trial-by-taste, with a lofty goal: homemade tomato ketchup that tastes like Mother's. Without Mother's guidance -- or so I thought. But then handsome younger bro said, "I think I have Mom's ketchup recipe!" The quest suddenly became a lot more promising. Here's a picture trail.

Cutting the beautiful heirloom plum tomatoes from Henkle's Herbs and Heirlooms. I particularly like the long, meaty, stripey ones, which have a fine sweet taste.

Cooking the tomatoes

Cooking the tomatoes

Into two stock pots, each with a heavy bottom, for hours of slow cooking, so the absent-minded cook would not discover burned tomatoes after Failure To Stir.

The pulp or juice before reduction

The pulp or juice before reduction

The pulp or juice, after using the trusty Foley Food Mill on the soft, cooked plum tomatoes. About 20 pounds of tomatoes yielded about 10 quarts of thick, red, pulpy juice. I tried reducing it in the oven overnight, and discovered that 170 degrees is too slow -- but at least no tomatoes were burned or otherwise harmed in making that experiment. 225 degrees might be about right for an overnight reduction of this large amount of juice.

The complete mixture, minus sugar

The complete mixture, minus sugar

After reducing a separate, second mixture of vinegar, onions, spices, and peppers, the solids get tied in clean cloth, and both liquids and solids are added to the reduced tomato juice. More reducing takes place as the spices and aromatics infuse the thickening juice. Sugar is added last "to prevent scorching and ruining your day's work."

Filling the clean canning jars with the finished ketchup

Filling the clean canning jars with the finished ketchup

Time for canning, which I had promised myself at age 18 I would never, never do again. Broke my promise, since it turns out I hadn't really counted the cost of living an entire life without homemade ketchup. It also turns out that crucial canning tools like jar lifters and little magnetic lid lifters are available in supermarkets for not much money, taking away my last excuse: "But I don't have a jar lifter..."

Ketchup jars in the hot water bath

Ketchup jars in the hot water bath

The seven pints of ketchup in their hot water bath. Experienced canner bro said, "Use a rack. 30 minutes should do it." I looked up a how-to YouTube video that helped with little questions I still had.

Finished, canned ketchup

Finished, canned ketchup

I have to admit that in spite of my snarly state about canning in general, I was looking forward to the satisfying little "ping" sounds that signify the lids are truly, definitely sealed.  Big surprise: The pings came almost immediately, as I used the awesome jar lifter to put the pints of ketchup on the obligatory tea towel.

I also looked forward to being really DONE with the ketchup - and now I am, except for enjoying it, sharing it, and slathering it on Stone Cross Farm hot dogs and Elmwood Stock Farm organic Black Angus ground round burgers.

Although it wasn't planned, I broke my canning fast and completed homemade ketchup on September 3, 2010, exactly 75 years after Mother and Dad married. Many thanks to younger bro for the recipe recovery and coaching, and I'm grateful, too, for the sweet and spicy memories of that irrepressible Mother.

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The world is coming to visit central Kentucky this year for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. To help our visitors know more about Kentucky's food and food ways, Savoring Kentucky is rolling out 116 Savory Kentucky Bites, one for each of the 100 days before WEG begins, and 16 for the days during WEG, September 25 - October 10. Today's Savory Bite is number 79.

116 World EQ Game Postrona