The Milkweed Diaries

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Up-Cycled Freezer Contents

Homemade ketchup from last year's frozen cherry tomatoes

It's a time of transition here on the farm, appropriately enough in this Equinox season. Two friends who have been living here for the past year are moving away, two new farm residents are arriving, the garden is winding down, we have only one more tailgate market day in the season, and everything is starting to feel cooler, slower, and quieter.

Our new neighbor-friends suggested going in on a bulk meat purchase from the WWC farm next door, which has motivated me to clean out our freezer. Since I went way overboard preserving vegetables last year when we had more produce than we could possibly sell or consume, the freezer was still full of jars of whole cherry tomatoes, wild blueberries, salsas, pestos and etc. It got to the point with the cherry tomato overload last summer that I was just rinsing them and stuffing them in half-gallon jars whole. And there quite a few of those jars still hanging out in the freezer by the end of tomato season this year (that being now).

This is what 10 quarts of frozen cherry tomatoes looks like:

Soooo, it was time for "out with the old." I made some super-delicious juice from all of the wild and tame blueberries piled up in the freezer, and am chipping away at the pesto, but what to do with gallons and gallons of thawed cherry tomatoes?

How could I use them without having to deal with all of the skins? I sure wasn't going to blanch and peel them all - that would have been a full-time job for a few days. Maybe something involving a trip through the food mill to get rid of all of the skins and seeds...something like ketchup!

Last year in the final throes of tomato overload, I made a big batch of green tomato ketchup, which we savored all through the winter. It made an especially delicious dressing for salad or fish when mixed with a little homemade mayonnaise.

All of those jars of cherry tomatoes got me thinking that the different flavors of all of the varieties -- smoky White Currant, sweet Sungold Select, tangy Black Cherry, and tomato-y Peacevine would make a delightfully complex and savory ketchup. Plus, I could throw in some last-year's frozen salsa to spice it up - all of the ingredients in the salsa (onions, peppers, parsley, garlic) are frequently included in catsup recipes, so all the better. More freezer space freed up, more flavorful ketchup.

The tomatoes and onions starting to cook

So here's the recipe:

Cherry Tomato Ketchup

  • 10 quarts cherry tomatoes (fresh or frozen)
  • 2-3 cups chopped onions, to taste
  • Sweet and/or hot peppers, parsley, oregano (optional) to taste
  • 1 Tbs black pepper
  • 1 Tbs dry mustard powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbs high-quality salt
  • 1 quart apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup honey
  1. Combine tomatoes and onions in a pot with everything except the honey.
  2. Pour the vinegar over the vegetables and cook for 4 hours over low heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Put the mixture through a food mill.I use a secondhand Foley food mill which works like a champ.
  4. Return to the pot and bring to a boil again, and allow to boil until ketchup has achieved desired thickness. Be forewarned: This takes a LOOONG time! It's good to start the ketchup in the morning and let it cook down on low heat all day long, stirring and keeping an eye on it through the day. A good project for a rainy day.
  5. Add honey.
  6. Pour into hot, sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Cooking down, down, down!

The final product - yum! It came out very smoky and spicy, almost verging on barbecue sauce, but still with the classic ketchup balance of sweet and vinegary.

Viola. Freezer space freed up, delicious condiment stockpiled for the winter.


anna maria said...

Before tomatoes are no longer in season, I am going to make a batch of this, even if just one bottle. I live in a small town in southern Italy and there is only one brand of Catsup in the supermarket - lucky to even have that - but it is too sweet, so I am going to try my own.
I may mix in some green tomatoes, as Italians prefer their tomatoes mostly green for salads.
Thanks for the recipe.

Milkweed said...

Hey anna maria,
Hurrah! I made it with 100% green tomatoes last year ( - they have to cook a bit longer. Fair warning: whether green or ripe, the cooking down process takes a looong time! It's good to start in the morning and keep the pot on low all day til the ketchup is thick!