What is "From Scratch?"

When it comes to cooking, it's all about creating. Before you can eat, you must compose. As grocers, corporations, celebrities, and Chefs make more and more food "convenient" ultimately, their taking away your ability to trust your own palate and creativity, and replacing those senses with nothing more than assembly line instructions. A package of this, and a bottle of that, isn't what stirs up memories of your grandmother, and doesn't make you beam with pride when you pull your creations from the oven. I prefer to have flour from head to toe, a rigged apartment smoke alarm, and to feel the excitement of knowing that I am self sustainable, creative and spent an afternoon (into the evening) to make something I thought you could only buy.

The purpose of this blog isn't to give recipes that will feed a family of 4, in ten minutes, on a Wednesday. There is plenty of that already. This blog is about reclaiming our heirloom recipes, learning how to avoid the bar code when shopping, and ultimately, it's about cherishing the hours we spend at the stove, not trying to condense them.

By your self, with your friends, your kids and loved ones, I encourage you to take a look at what we can create to nourish, entertain, and gift....From Scratch.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


My friend Dan tells a great story about traveling in Italy as a picky American eater. When he sits down at a neighborhood trattoria, exhausted, confused and starving, he tells the waiter he wants "noodles and red sauce" The Italian waiter returns, with what else, but a bottle of Heinz 57 and boiled spaghetti. While this may not have been what my friend was looking for, it does go to show that all the world over, Americans love ketchup.
Growing up, I fondly remember it slathered on an array of foods. In fact, I have a hard time remembering a dish before the age of 16 that didn't benefit from a glug of the crimson condiment. Mac and Cheese, Chili, grilled sandwiches, eggs, and of course, where would Mom's meatloaf be with out it? As my fellow Utahans know, ketchup plays the supporting role in the one and only "fry sauce" --an epicurean achievement of half ketchup, half ranch dressing which holds the power to be delicious even drizzled over garbage. Anyone who visits the Beehive state will soon find that this sauce is valued about as highly as our famous snow.
But as we grow older and more aware, we must ask ourselves self, what IS in that? How did it get to my table? Is it sustainable enough to wind up on my children's table? Commercial ketchup is, sadly, filled with false sugars, colors, and stabilizers that do us no good. Fortunately, the alternative is easy and FUN to make. And I gotta say, it turned out GOOD. Slightly sticky, flavored with apple cider vinegar and a warm spice blend that showcases the tomatoes, instead of covering their natural flavor.
I chose to use fresh, heirloom tomatoes because their abundance this early September is practically blocking the door to my local grocery store. But if hamburgers are on the menu in March, the recipe works fine with canned tomatoes (Or better yet, the ones you jarred yourself!)
At first I worried that the multiple colors of heirlooms, with their pastel stripes and green hues, would produce a ketchup that was not the bright red color we're accustomed to, but I think this really shows the spirit of this blog. The tomatoes determine the ketchup, not the other way around. As I stood at my counter, I felt a twinge of guilt for wishing away these unique characteristics in my fruit. I took a moment to remind myself of the one lesson that several  Bay Area Chefs have instilled in me: Respect your produce.

In the end, these beautifully grown babies were simmered and shown off in my anti-shelf stable staple, and later enjoyed with hot, salty frites and a glass of Champagne. A fate that any good tomato could hope for.

Ketchup, From Scratch
3 pounds, fresh tomatoes
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch of fresh ginger, minced or run down the microplane
1/4 cup organic dark brown sugar
1/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon each of the following spices:
black peppercorns
coriander seeds
fennel seeds
1 star anise
2  fresh laurel bay leaves
Kosher salt, to taste
All our supplies....
 Use the biggest, deepest pan you have (something you would boil spaghetti in is perfect) I chose a smaller pan, and learned this stuff can splatter.

My freckled stove top....Use a big pot, and you can avoid this

Heirloom tomatoes, perfection in the imperfections

  To begin, wash your tomatoes, and using a small knife, remove the cores.

By coring the fruit, instead of slicing off the top, you get more yield from your tomato.

Slice the tomatoes in half. Working over a large bowl, squeeze the seed packets and some of the excess juice out. No need to wring dry, but removing the majority of the seeds will make for a smoother, sweeter ketchup. (If you have the desire, you can strain the seeds off the juice and make a delicious Bloody Mary.)
 Chop your tomatoes in bite size pieces, and puree in the food processor until fairly smooth. Season with a pinch of salt.
In a large pot, over medium heat, saute your onions in canola oil, until they are soft and translucent. Do not let them brown. Add your garlic and ginger and cook for 2 minutes more.

*At this point, I added my spices loose, and found this to be a mistake, as later I had to strain the whole thing to get the spices out. You can avoid this by tying up all the spices in a cheese cloth or tea strainer, and remove the whole thing in one go.
This will smell amazing

So, that being said, add your spice sachet, as well as your tomatoes to the pan, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add your sugar and stir as it melts in. Add half your vinegar, reserving the 2nd half for seasoning later. By adding the vinegar in two steps you achieve a richer, more balanced sauce. Because the sauce reduces and cooks for nearly 3 hours, the second addition of vinegar adds freshness you would normally cook out. 

And now we wait...
Let the sauce simmer, stirring occasionally, until it is as thick as commercial ketchup.
The thicker it gets, the more you need to stir it, to avoid scorching it on the bottom of the pan.
It should reduce, losing more than 3/4 of your original liquid.
Is it Ketchup yet?

When it is reduced to consistency, remove from the heat. Season with salt, and reserved vinegar.

Now... the single most important thing you can possibly do when cooking from scratch....


Think about what it tasted like. TASTE IT AGAIN! Add more salt, vinegar or sugar, until you are mad with desire for french fries! I found I liked mine with a bit more vinegar and took it easy on the salt. But, hey, it's your ketchup. Do it up.
Homemade Ketchup. Eat some while it's still warm

If you want your ketchup as smooth as commercial ketchup, you can puree it further in the food processor or blender and pass the sauce while it's warm through a fine mesh strainer.

Let the condiment cool, and store in any jar or bottle you saved from your previous store bought items.

Ready to be stored, but not for long!

Please remember that homemade ketchup is natural and has no preservatives. (That's a good thing!) Because of these reasons, it's important to label the ketchup and use it long before you would your Heinz stuff, that's been on the door shelf since....whenever.

Best midnight snack ever 


  1. Jess, this ketchup looks fancy and delicious!!! I didn't realize that it could be pretty simple. BUT ... I have a confession--I am a Heinz addict. I eat it on everything and bring my own Heinz to parties, just in case they have the cheap crap. But I might have to try this from-scratch ketchup sometime.

    I have a question for you though. Do you know how to make cream of chicken soup or cream of mushroom soup from scratch? I have several recipes that call for the canned stuff, but I know it can't be good for you. I'd love to make some and freeze or can it, but don't know how.

  2. Great question Liz! I have wondered the same thing because I have a great recipe for Chicken Cordon Bleu, and the sauce is equal parts sour cream and condensed chicken soup. The following is what I use to substitute. I have never tried freezing it,but I am sure it would do well.

    1 C. Olive Oil
    1 C. AP Flour
    1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
    2 teaspoons onion powder
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 1/2 cups chicken stock
    1 1/2 cups milk
    salt and pepper

    Warm your oil in a large pot. Sprinkle flour over the oil and mix to combine into a paste. Cook the paste, stirring constantly, for 3-5 minutes.(It's important to cook or "toast" the paste for a bit, or else your sauce will taste like raw flour) In a separate pot combine the stock and milk and heat until just warm. Switch to a whisk, and slowly add the liquid to your flour and oil mixture, whisking the whole time, to avoid lumps. Add you seasoning, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let thicken, about seven minutes, whisking all the time. Remove from the heat and let cool.If it is thicker than you like, you can always thin the soup out with a bit more stock or milk.

    I hope this helps! Now I want to make funeral potatoes!

  3. That looks easier than I thought it would be! I'll have to try freezing it and see what happens.

    I always run into recipes that call for cream of chicken soup and like to have it on hand, but am slightly grossed out about what is really in the can.

    PS - Funeral potatoes sound AMAZING right now!

  4. Melissa and I still think you are made of love!