Brooklyn Farmhouse

February 10th, 2009 by megan · 43 Comments

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I have tried as hard as I’ve been able to in the last few years to avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I just don’t like the stuff. Recently, I felt pretty vindicated about my near-obsessional dislike for HFCS when a report surfaced about mercury being found (by FDA scientists, no less!) in some HFCS samples. Yes, I said mercury! It can cause brain damage and all sorts of bad stuff. You can read more about mercury in high fructose corn syrup in this post by Leslie Hatfield on The Green Fork.

One of the few products with HFCS in it that I continued (ack!) to eat was ketchup, at least until a certain favorite brand of mine started selling organic ketchup, which contains cane sugar instead of HFCS. I thought I’d just go the extra step and make my own – why the hell not.  I have to admit that making your own ketchup does take just a *bit* more time than simply running down to the corner store and picking up a bottle of organic ketchup, but it was fun to make and the result is actually better (gasp!) than my favorite brand of organic ketchup. In the summer, I’ll try to make this with the equivalent amount (about 2 pounds) of fresh tomatoes.

This recipe is a hybrid, adapted from recipes in Sauveur, Gourmet, and my grandma’s 1940s-era cookbook The Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking.

Makes a little less than 2 cups.


4 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon whole allspice
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
1 cinnamon stick (3-inches long)
One 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes with their juice
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar

Special Equipment: Cheesecloth


  1. Using kitchen twine, tie the cloves, allspice, celery seed, chile flakes, and cinnamon stick together in a medium square of doubled-up cheesecloth. (You just made a bouquet garni!)
  2. In a large, heavy pot, add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, optional jalapeno, salt, vinegar, and brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions and peppers are very soft, about 1 hour.
  3. Remove and discard the secret spice bundle. Let the mixture cool slightly, then puree in batches in a blender or food processor. (Be careful pureeing hot liquids! Don’t fill the blender too full.)
  4. At this point, if the mixture is too pulpy for your taste, pass the liquid through a sieve, pushing as much of the solids through with a rubber spatula as you can. If you prefer your ketchup a little more rustic and a little less smooth, you can skip this step.
  5. Return to your pot and cook over medium heat, stirring to keep from scorching, until the mixture has thickened and darkened slightly in color, about 30 minutes. (If the mixture starts to scorch, turn down the heat a bit.)
  6. Transfer to a container (a glass jar is preferable) and let cool. Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours to allow the flavors to meld. Your delicious homemade ketchup will keep in the fridge for up to three weeks.


Do you think these will be good with san marzano tomatoes?

What about tomatillos? I know they aren’t exactly tomatoes, but it seems like a great twist on the classics.

I might go try that… they are much more tart so maybe roasting them???

What do you think?

Thanks for the shout-out, Megan! I do my best to avoid the HFCS, too, but have to admit that ketchup is my weakness. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile — I used to go to a local food restaurant in Olympia, WA that served homemade ketchup — to be honest, it wasn’t that great. I’m guessing yours will be better. Can’t wait to try it.

I get the organic stuff for the Baltimore Homestead :) but am hard pressed to turn down the industrial stuff in a restaurant, maybe I’ll just start carrying a jar out to eat with me.

I just told my bf about making homemade ketchup! Looks fabulous.

How Was Ketchup Invented? – The Plate: Jasmine Wiggins
21 Apr 2014 ... Ketchup comes from the Hokkien Chinese word, kê-tsiap, the name of a ....
globalized world, we all need to understand how food has made us ...

Thanks for the post on squirrel bread – look forward to keeping up!



Yeah, I used San Marzanos, actually. They’re pretty much the only canned tomato I used these days, but I’m sure this would be good w/regular canned tomatoes too.
Hmmmm – tomatillo ketchup! I like the idea! Yeah, I would roast first, or you could just increase the amount of sugar a bit. Let me know how it goes, I’d like to try it if it works out for you!

I am totally going to start carrying my own ketchup around with me. Like Alice Waters traveling with capers.

shoot, I forgot to mention the garlic. I just added it to the ingredients list.

I am envisioning a rough-cut/ground chicken thigh burger with tomatillo ketchup and pickled onions on a nice roll. Maybe some yucca fries to be completely to be overkill with the “latin-american” theme.

I just went to this awesome coop in sf that has walls of bulk spices. even then I opted for mulling spices (allspice, cloves, cinnamon, and dried orange peel). The orange smelled too good.

If I try it, which i really want to do, i will let you know!

oh man, can I come over for lunch?? (p.s., I get so jealous of you guys in SF – I mean, we have some pretty, pretty good food here, but when you mention stuff like getting freshly shucked uni at your local farmer’s market it makes me cry a little bit inside.)

Thanks for this!!!!! Now all we need to do is roast up a few sweet potato fries, and we’re SET!

I once made my own ketchup in a cooking class where we were learning how to work with potatoes. We had to have our own ketchup to go with the fries we cooked up. I had totally forgotten about that so thanks for the reminder!

I too try to avoid HFCS at all costs, except when in comes to Heinz ketchup. I’m addicted – I sometimes think my love for french fries is actually the love I have for ketchup. But, I know the stuff is lethal so I’m going to give your ketchup a try… PS. on canned tomatoes – San Marzanos are also my favorite – always use whole. I’ ve just been doing some canned tomato research …the crushed or chopped ones are usually the ones that were not deemed “good” enough for whole canning.

I know – Heinz is actually the brand I was alluding to above. I seriously love it. But I did a taste test – Heinz organic versus homemade, and homemade won! (Made my husband be a judge, too.)

How its made - Heinz ketchup -- Discovery Channel - YouTube

Great tip on tomatoes – I had heard that about crushed canned tomatoes – I always use whole. If I need them crushed I just put them in a bowl and crush them up with my hands.

i _just_ saw this in saveur this morning (a little behind on my food reading). i admit to being a heinz girl my entire life, but after i had to throw away the last two bottles i bought because they expired, i’ve realized i’m just not buying food that needs ketchup.

but this quantity seems much more manageable. and then i’ll have an excuse to make homemade french fries, too- something else i haven’t gotten around to.

thanks for the recipe.

If you want to make a larger quantity, homemade ketchup can also be bottled (canning in US, I think) heat glass jam jars in the oven, fill with boiling hot ketchup, and fasten lids tightly. When they cool, they should form a seal – pop-ups will have popped-down. Like this, the ketchup should keep in the cupboard for up to a year. Once opened, keep in fidge, and use within 3 weeks.
My mother used to make something similar to this (with less sugar) as a base for tomato soup and pasta sauce.

Yum, I think it’s awesome that you made your own ketchup. It looks great!

Definitely a good idea that Mallory had – if you want to can (bottle!) the ketchup, I’d increase the quantity a bit – this recipe doesn’t make enough to warrant the extra work of canning. I think it would be easily doubled or possibly even tripled. (You might have to play with the spice to tomato ratio if you triple or quadruple, though.)

oh – and sweet potato fries with this?? heck YES!

Just found your blog and looking forward to exploring more of it. I’ve always wanted to try to make my own ketchup, so thanks for the recipe!

[...] Scratching corn syrup A Mighty Apetite Kim O’Donnel is on a quest to make DIY sweets that are free from high fructose corn syrup, and this week it was from-scratch chocolate syrup that looks amazing (and easy)!  And great minds think alike — this week Megan at Brooklyn Farmhouse shows us how to make ketchup. [...]

i love that you made your own ketchup – and i love that you used a hybrid of recipes including your grandmom’s old cookbook. i think only a a person who loves to cook and understands food would be able to ween themselves off of the HFCS ketchup and move into the au natural kind. i’ve gotta try this.

So I made the tomatillo ketchup. Twas good, but very different. More like a sweet and source sauce… I tasted Heinz ketchup for a comparison and I loved the boost from the spices.

I love the idea, Katie – your post is awesome. I’m totally going to try it. Mulling spices = brilliant.

I actually make and “can” my own ketchup every year. It is so good and I can play with the flavors without breaking the bank (have you priced gourmet ketchups??) We plant around 20 tomato plants a year along with out other produce so I don’t normally have to buy tomatoes but did need to find a way to use what we produced. People should try making ketchup. There is something very satisfying about seeing all those jars with bright red contents lined up. So glad I learned how to preserve my harvests years ago!

Have you considered using grated carrots instead of sugar? This is what I use when I make any tomato-based sauces, when I am concerned about acidity.

What a great blog! I used your recipe and came up with something quite nice. A little cinnamonny for my taste, but good.
I blogged about it here:

Huh? So what Heinz isn’t telling us is that the other 51 “flavours” in their ketchup are actually preservatives, with an extra added bonus of a healthy dose of mercury. Wow!

Your ketchup looks really great! I’m going to try it this weekend–with a little substition of honey or agave syrup instead of brown sugar. You obsessive avoidance of HFCS = my obsessive avoidance of cane sugar Do you think the “liquid sweet” will effect the outcome? Maybe just will need to cook a little longer??

I don’t think a liquid sweet would affect the outcome too much – agave is a little more neutral in flavor so I think I’d go with that over honey. The molasses-y flavor of the brown sugar adds a little something to flavor, though – maybe if you add a teaspoon of actual molasses (maybe less) it might mimic the brown sugar taste.

I just made ketchup using your recipe and though it’s still cooling, I tasted it and it’s delicious! I used less sugar with a couple of teaspoons of molasses for flavor. Then I used my Braun ‘stick’ mixer to chop up the thick pieces and it turned out pretty smooth.

I didn’t know that HFCS had mercury in it so that really inspired me to do this. And it was great to find a good recipe. Thanks!

Thanks for the site Mom…Laura and I are making ketchup tonight and also thanks for the info on the mercury in HFCS. Think of all the brain damage after all those years of Heinz ketchup! P.S. We loved your ketchup so we will do the molasses substitute just as you did. We are also canning some tonight.

Could you use a slow cooker instead of cooking it on a stove top?

Deirdre- I think that is an excellent idea! It actually might develop more depth of flavor if you cook the tomato mixture longer and slower. I’d just check the taste after 2 hours or so on low to make sure the spices don’t become overwhelming.

i want to learn how to make ketchub

Making ketchup is great fun, albeit a bit labor intensive using fresh tomatoes and making big batches. And whatever you do don’t leave the pot simmering without stirring. I have the scary pics to prove it:

For all the people using brown sugar… I am certain brown sugar is simply the highly refined white stuff with molasses added in. Something to consider. I like the idea of using grated carrots in place of sugar!

You’re totally right, Thomas. Brown sugar is actually more processed than white sugar! You could try using raw sugar and adding a bit of molasses in with the mixture to make a sort of DIY brown sugar.

I plan on trying this – it looks great. I remember, as a child, my grandmom making ketchup. She once had me help her grate the tomatoes. I was upset because it didn’t look like ketchup (bottled kind). My grandmom told me to be patient and by the end it looked just like ketchup. It tasted amazing (slightly sweet). I always add sugar to my ketchup.

BTW Heniz 57 doesn’t mean 57 ingredients, it means 57 brands of products they had( they actually had more, but liked the 57 number). Here is a link to a post on it, scroll down to Origin of Heinz’ “57″ Brands –

making it again. with thai chilis and a bit o fish sauce. ;)

I made this lastnight and Oh my goodness…this was absolutely delicious!!! Instead of vinegar, I used lemon juice. It was BEAUTIFUL. Thanks for this recipe!

Hi – Wanted to let you know I made this yesterday and it was awesome. I posted a picture of Flickr with a link back to this post (hope that’s ok).

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Sorry, link did not embed correctly. Photo can be found here:

Just made this the other night, but with heirloom tomatoes. So delicious! I think next time I’ll try it with a malt vinegar instead of white.

Thanks for the recipe is very good!

[...] recipe that I decided to go with came from a site called Brooklyn Farmhouse.  Their recipe only used a small amount of tomatoes and simple spices.  I decided to add my [...]

I applaud you for avoiding HFCS. Did you know that HFCS comes from Genetically Modified Corn? This is to say that they (Monsanto) have taken the genes of a bacteria that organic farmers use as an insecticide, and forcefully shoot them into the DNA of corn. It is known as Bt Corn. The entire corn plant produces its own insecticide at the genetic level. This means that when an insect takes a bite, its stomach explodes. These foods were snuck into our food system with no discussion. Have you noticed the skyrocketing food allergies, Gastro intestinal disorders, asthma, cancer, diabetes, autism and a host of other illness? Funny that this dramatic increase coincides with the introduction of GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). You talk about the FDA. LOL. They are bought and paid for by Monsanto. In other words, ex Monsanto execs are working at the FDA. The entire system is corrupt, where the guy with the most money gets what he wants. Please join me and thousands of others at GMO Free USA. You will be getting an education that you don’t want, but that you need. Thank you.

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