Tomato ketchup (using fresh tomatoes)

Tomato Ketchup
home-made tomato ketchupMakes about 700-800ml ketchup (3 cups)

about 1.5 - 1.7kg fresh tomatoes (US: 3 - 3 1/2 pounds)
1 large onion
4-6 garlic cloves
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp salt
30ml(1 tblsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice
80ml  vinegar - any kind (US: 1/3 cup)
75g sugar (US: 1/3 cup)

Roughly chop the tomatoes and place in a large saucepan - preferably stainless steel. Peel and dice the onions reasonably finely, then peel and chop or crush the garlic cloves. Add onions and garlic to the pan, along with the paprika, pepper, turmeric and mixed spice.

Put over a fairly gentle heat, and stir a few times as the tomatoes start to make their own juice. Simmer uncovered for about half an hour or so. Switch off the heat when the onions look translucent and very soft, and the mixture has reduced significantly. Prod the mixture a bit with a spoon, and if any of it still feels hard, simmer for another ten or fifteen minutes.

Leave to cool for at least half an hour - it can be considerably longer. Then use a blender - preferably a hand-held one, as it's a great deal simpler to blend in the pan than having to transfer the mixture gradually to a standard blender and then into a fresh saucepan - and liquidise thoroughly. This is very important - make sure all the onions and tomatoes are very well blended.

Now switch the heat on again, and return the pan to the stove. Add the last four ingredients - salt, lemon juice, vinegar and sugar - and stir until mixed. Then leave to simmer for another 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the desired consistency is reached. Note that as it thickens, the mixture will bubble quite violently - this is to be expected, but can be a bit messy, and if it splashes on a hand it's extremely hot.

Cool in the pan after it has thickened, then transfer to suitable covered containers and refrigerate. Keeps for at least two months in the fridge, or can be frozen if you want to keep some of it for longer.

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My inspiration for this recipe came from 'The Loving Path' ketchup recipe, a few months ago. I was fed up of the preservatives in supermarket ketchup, and we have readily available inexpensive fresh tomatoes all year round in Cyprus; I can often find about 3kg for only a euro. A few of them may be squashy, but that doesn't matter at all. (I cut and freeze the rest of the tomatoes in 400g portions, to replace canned tomatoes in other recipes.)

I adapted the recipe gradually, simplifying greatly - for instance, I saw no reason to sieve the mixture to remove the tomato skins, or - as some other recipes suggested - to blanch and skin them first. However, if you like your ketchup smoother than even the best blender can make them, you might want to consider one of those options.

I added turmeric to the spices since it's considered a modern health food, and removed some of the others from the recipe, not wanting it to be too highly spiced. I found my first batch of experimental ketchup tasted too much of cinnamon for my preferences - so I simplified still further. I'm sure many more variations are possible; if you don't like garlic, for instance, you could simply omit it. If you like hot spicy ketchup, try adding some cayenne or even chili powder.

I've found that sometimes I stop the final simmering before it's quite thick enough; this doesn't affect the taste, but means that the texture isn't exactly like commercial ketchup. However, the taste - in my opinion - is out of this world. It tastes, I believe, as all ketchup ought to taste. That bubbly simmering at the end can be quite messy, but it's well worth the effort.

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