Canning Homemade Ketchup (or catsup)

Ketchup is a widely used condiment and tastes great on a hot dog or fries. The downside to store bought ketchup, or catsup, is that it often contains ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. My wife and I received several extra pounds of tomatoes and decided to make ketchup.

The great thing about this recipe is that it was easy to make and tastes amazing. We used the recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

Things you will need

Tomatoes
Chopped onions
Spices
Sugar
Vinegar
Coffee Filter
Canning/Pickling salt
Kitchen Aid Mixer with Fruit/Vegetable Strainer or a Food Mill

The nice thing about this recipe is that the tomatoes are sent through a strainer or food mill. This means the tomatoes only need to have the ends trimmed and the cores removed. The skins will be removed through the straining process.

To start off place the cut and cored tomatoes into a steel pot along with the chopped onion. Aluminum will react with the tomatoes and should not be used.

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Heating tomatoes for ketchup in a stainless steel pot

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Getting ready to start infusing the vinegar

While the tomatoes are cooking add your spices to a spice bag. If you don’t have a spice bag, as in my case, add the spices directly to the pot and filter out later with a coffee filter.

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Filtering out the spices from the infused vinegar.

Add in the cider vinegar to the pot. In the case of this batch of ketchup we used celery seeds, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, and whole allspice.

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Spices infusing in apple cider vinegar

Let the vinegar boil, and then remove from heat. Allow the spices to sit in the vinegar for at least 25 minutes. The spices can be discarded afterward.

Once the tomatoes have come to a boil reduce the heat and let them boil gently for about 20 minutes. Add the vinegar at this point and let it boil gently until it thickens.

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Reducing the tomatoes

After this has completed allow the tomatoes to cool. Next is when we ran the tomatoes through our kitchen aid attachment. The fruit/vegetable strainer makes life a lot easier. If you don’t have a kitchen aid mixer, or the attachment, you can use a food mill.

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Straining the tomato mixure

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Tomato pulp left over after straining through a kitchen aid attachment

After the ketchup has been strained return to the pot and add in salt and sugar. The book suggests letting it boil gently for about 45 minutes or until the volume is reduce by half. It took a bit longer for this batch. It all depends on how much water the tomatoes contain.

 

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Ketchup thickening on the stove

After the ketchup has thickened to the level you like prepare your jars for canning. Ladle in the hot ketchup and leave a 1/2 inch headspace. Boil the jars for 15 minutes, or adjusted for altitude.

After the ketchup has sealed stand back and enjoy your handy work.

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Canned homemade ketchup

Better yet, enjoy some of that ketchup on an all beef hotdog.

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Homemade ketchup with mustard on an all beef hotdog and whole wheat bun

Now you’ve got the ketchup down, on to making homemade relish and mustard… but that’s a post for another time.

– Jason Snell

 

Roasted Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Seeds

Have we gone too far in adding pumpkin spice to anything and everything? No, not quite yet. So, with that question out of the way, lets get to the part where we take raw pumpkin seeds and turn them into delicious roasted pumpkin seeds coated in a sugary pumpkin spice blend.

Roasted pumpkin spice pumpkin seeds

Roasted pumpkin spice pumpkin seeds

Things you’ll need:

Raw pumpkin seeds
Oil
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
Allspice

If you start off with an actual pumpkin, make sure the seeds from it have been rinsed and dried. Wait at least 12-24 hours after rinsing them before starting to roast the seeds. The pumpkin seed needs to be dry to roast properly.

Before starting on the seeds, because the first part is quick and easy, preheat your oven to 375F.

Take a cup or two of pumpkin seeds and place them into a bowl. Add a little olive oil to the bowl and stir the seeds until coated.

Take a baking sheet and line it with foil.

Spread the pumpkin seeds on the sheet, and once the oven is up to temperature, place the pan in the oven.

roasting pumpkin seeds

Roasting pumpkin seeds

Set a timer for five minutes.

You’ll want to check the pumpkin seeds every five minutes or so.

Pumpkin seeds roasting in the oven

Pumpkin seeds roasting in the oven

It will take between 10 and 15 minutes for the seeds to roast. You will be able to tell the pumpkin seeds are ready when you can start to smell them roasting and they start to turn a golden brown color.

Pumpkin seeds roasting in the oven

Pumpkin seeds roasting in the oven

While the seeds finish roasting take 2TB of sugar, 1/4tsp of allspice, 1/4tsp nutmeg, and 1/2tsp of cinnamon and blend them together in a bowl. If  you like more or less flavor simply adjust the proportions.

Pumpkin spice blend

Pumpkin spice blend

After the seeds are done roasting pull them out of the oven. Add the seeds to your bowl of mixed spices and sugar and stir to coat.

Voila, roasted pumpkin seeds complete, along with a sugary pumpkin spice coating.

Roasted pumpkin spice pumpkin seeds

Roasted pumpkin spice pumpkin seeds

Enjoy a fun taste of fall.

– Jason Snell

A Perfect Cup of Tea

To add to the healthy, whole food posts I decided I wanted to post about one of my favorite things. A good up of tea. I have never been a coffee person, and even though my wife enjoys a cup of java, I’ve never been able to acquire the taste.

Tea, or Camellia sinensis, originated in Asia. Tea is also one of the most popular drinks world wide, even more than soft drinks or even coffee, but don’t let anyone in Seattle know that. The legend behind tea says that a Chinese emperor had some leaves fall into some hot water and he drank the result. He found the beverage refreshing and thus tea was discovered.

Since it’s discovery several centuries ago tea has been crossed and bred to form different varieties. The same plant is still at the heart of it all. The English discovered tea in the 17th century and helped spread it through out the world. Today Britain is known for it’s love of tea, and even America is rediscovering this wonderful little plant.

Most tea is grown in Asia, either in China, India, or Sri Lanka. The majority comes from large tea plantations where thousands of tea plants are grown and the leaves harvested each season.

Tea plantation in hangzhou - from Wikimedia Commons

Tea plantation in hangzhou – from Wikimedia Commons

After tea is harvested, it is wilted, and depending on the type of tea that is being created, it may also be partially, or fully oxidized. My favorite kind of tea is a loose leaf black tea. I use either a mesh tea ball, or disposable tea bags to hold the tea while brewing it. If I had the time I would brew the tea loose in the water and filter the leaves out as I poured the tea. Sadly, I don’t have as much time for the art of tea as I would like.

Loose black tea - Wikimedia Commons

Loose black tea – Wikimedia Commons

To brew the perfect cup of tea you’ll need a few things.

Boiling water. Yes,  you can make tea in the microwave, but even though you can, you should not. To quote Dr. Ian Malcolm, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” (Yes that quote came from the movie Jurassic Park). The principal applies though. For the best cup of tea the water must be boiling. Since black tea is my most common type I like to drink we’ll start there.

First prepare the tea, either in a tea ball, a disposable bag. If you want to make the tea loose in the water make sure to pour water into the tea pot first, after the kettle has brought the water to a boil, and then pour it out to warm the ceramic or porcelain of the pot. This can also be done with a mug as well. It helps the water steeping the tea to retain its warmth.

Japanese cast-iron teapot - Wikimedia Commons

Japanese cast-iron teapot – Wikimedia Commons

Now that the container is properly warmed, place the tea in the container and slowly pour the still boiling water over the top of the tea.

Wait, how much tea and how much water? These things must be known!

A good estimate is about one teaspoon full of dried tea leaves per prepared cup of tea. This usually means six ounces of water per serving. If you want stronger tea, simply add more leaves per cup.

The water has been added, and the leaves are starting to steep and change the color of the water. If you inhale the steam at this point rising off the steeping tea, you’ll discover how wonderful the scent can be.

Before we continue lets stop here and talk about things not to do with tea. Have you ever took a sip of tea and then felt your mouth go dry? Tea contains tannin that comes out during the steeping process. If black tea is steeped longer than five minutes the tea can contain large amounts of tannin. The tannin reacts with salivary proteins giving you a dry mouth feeling. Tannin also gives the tea a bitter taste.

By limiting the time tea steeps the amount of tannin in the drink is reduced. My personal preference for black tea is two to two and half minutes. This provides a very flavorful cup of tea, without the downside of a lot of tannin.

If you are using a tea bag, make sure not to swirl or squeeze the bag, this will increase the release of tannin from the tea leaves. Try not to swirl or dunk the tea in and out of the water as well. The key thing to remember is to make stronger tea, use more leaves, not increased steeping time.

Tea pot freshly made tea with milk - Wikimedia Commons

Tea pot with freshly made tea with milk – Wikimedia Commons

Now that you have your freshly made cup of tea feel free to add whatever additions you want to it. I really enjoy a black cup of tea all by itself, and at other times I like a little sugar in mine. Here is a list of items people like to add to tea.

  • Milk
  • Lemon
  • Sugar
  • Honey

Purists will say the only way to drink a cup of tea is in one fashion or another. However, tea is a wonderful drink and when properly brewed can be enjoyed with a variety of additions. Tea also goes very well with fresh muffins, cookies, or any kind of pastry.

If black tea is not something you enjoy there are other kinds of teas that have differing flavors.

 English: Tea of different fermentation: From left to right: Green tea (Bancha from Japan), Yellow tea (Kekecha from China), Oolong tea (Kwai flower from China) and Black tea (Assam Sonipur Bio FOP from India)

Tea of different fermentation: From left to right: Green tea (Bancha from Japan), Yellow tea (Kekecha from China), Oolong tea (Kwai flower from China) and Black tea (Assam Sonipur Bio FOP from India)

Tea Brewing Tip: Each kind of tea brews best at different temperatures. Green and white teas do better with water that is closer to 160F-170F, while black tea prefers a temp closer to 212F. Oolong tea is better brewed in between at 170F-185F.

White tea is the most tended of all the teas and is picked from the first leaves to be produced on the plant. Note: white tea should only be steeped 1-2 minutes to limit bitterness.

Green tea is not oxidized and is still green even after it has been dried. When I drink green tea I really enjoy jasmine green tea. This is green tea that has been infused with jasmine flowers. The taste is hard to describe, but it is one of my favorite teas. Note: green tea should only be steeped 1-2 minutes to limit bitterness

Oolong tea is about halfway between green tea and black tea, it has been partially oxidized, but not to same extent as black tea. Note: oolong tea can be steeped 2-3 minutes

Pu’er tea is dried, and then fermented and pressed into blocks. It has a unique taste and is probably the strongest among all the teas. Give this tea a try if you feel a bit adventurous.

Tea can also be steeped again two or three times. The flavor decreases each time, however, some cultures feel the 2nd steeping is the best flavor.

Enjoy your cup of tea and if you have any questions about brewing your own cup feel free to ask below.

– Jason Snell