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There are gourmet eaters who long for the taste of ketchup — specifically Heinz ketchup — on a burger and fries. There are even some adults who think that ketchup improves the taste of everything else on their dinner plate, including grilled fish and scrambled eggs. But bottled ketchup is overwhelmingly sweet and bland. All of the other spices that are traditionally a part of ketchup are lost in a sea of red corn syrup.

“Ketchup” comes from kecap, a strongly-flavored vinegar-based Asian sauce with lots of variations. Ketchup was not originally made out of tomatoes; in fact, substituting other fruits (such as cherries or mangoes) can make a delicious condiment for meat.

For this Memorial Day weekend barbeque, let’s resurrect a flavorful condiment. Homemade ketchup takes about an hour to cook and will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks. Homegrown tomatoes are not yet in the market, but for the next barbeque party (July 4) use fresh tomatoes (peeled and seeded) instead of canned. If using canned tomatoes, be sure that the list of ingredients on the label reads tomatoes and nothing else!


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced ginger
  • 1 to 2 hot chile peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • dash of ground cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes or 4-6 fresh tomatoes (peeled, seeded, and chopped)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a sauce pan and saute the onions on medium heat until clear, about five minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and chile peppers and cook for a minute. Add the sugar, cloves, bay, cinnamon, vinegar, and lime. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour. Remove the bay leaf and cinnamon stick and discard. Puree the ketchup with an immersion blender.

3 Comments for “Ketchup Kvetch”  

  1. Alanna

    Now don’t you be maligning my Heinz! All the the fancy ketchups are great – I have made several, even have two kinds still in jars in the basement from last summer – but Heinz stands by itself, it’s the only “real” ketchup, all the others are “mere” gourmet ketchups, fruit ketchups, sweet ketchups, etc. : – )))) Thanks for today’s smile!

  2. Chef

    Oh no, I couldn’t malign a mass-produced processed food product whose reliance on high-fructose corn syrup has contributed to the rise of gasoline prices!

  3. Jane Diamond

    I am a longtime friend of Normans, and am so saddened by his death. In honor of his memory, I am going to make his onion dish on Monday.
    Jane Diamond (in Denver)