Smoky Roasted Tomato & Chipotle Ketchup
I’m all about the condiments, people. First it was mustard. Then it was more mustard, and now we’re moving into ketchup territory. But hey, summer is almost upon us! This is prime BBQ season, and nothing gets me all hot and bothered like the prospect of house made sausages and burgers slathered in an army of flavorful condiments.
Although grainy mustard can make me weep tears of exquisite joy, and I will shamelessly eat sweet pickle relish or piccalilli with a spoon, ketchup just never turned my crank. I mean, it’s a fundamental BBQ staple, true. If there wasn’t ketchup on my burger I would probably be sad. Not pitiful keening sad, mind you, but…less happy. Yes, I think that’s it. It’s just that ketchup is so….so…common. And boring. And…and…..bourgeoise.
Uh huh. That’s right. I said it. I’m officially calling ketchup out. It’s not that I have a beef with ketchup (and I do enjoy ketchup with my ground beef), it’s just that I don’t think ketchup really lives up to it’s potential. And for that, I blame Heinz. You know what? There ARE other kindz. Pfft. Heinz, indeed. Who wants a Ketchup Nazi at their barbecue anyway? Certainly not me. Ketchup has so many qualities that I adore – acidic tomatoes, pungent vinegar, subtle (or overwhelming – YOU HEAR ME HEINZ?!) sweetness – and yet somehow the whole is less than the sum of it’s parts. I don’t get it. I always think of bottled ketchup as being like Einstein in high school….there’s so much potential, and yet he’s failing math class.
Ketchup just needs to reclaim it’s spirit, right? Rich and flush with tomato flavor, biting vinegar and sultry sweetness, home made ketchup can really be a thing of beauty. When you’re making ketchup at home, roasting the tomatoes makes a world of difference. The natural sweetness is allowed to shine and then there’s that slightly smoky, ballsy tomato flavor. And while we’re speaking of smoky-sweet flavor, have you noticed my affinity for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce? I love them, I really, truly do. The chipotle peppers bring this ketchup out of the realm of mundane and into the arena of fetching and fabulous pseudo-BBQ-sauce-esque divinity. Lick the spoon and you’ll notice the sweetly acidic vinegary taste first, followed by a solid dose of concentrated tomato flavor and rounded out by a slow and surprising burn which just creeps up on you and haunts your mouth until the next bite. I see this as a good thing.
So now that we’ve discussed ketchup ad naseum, we’re onto the final important question. What do you think: ketchup or catsup? Who’s drawing your vote? I tried flirting with catsup over the years, being from one of those colonialist countries like I am, but I couldn’t do it. There’s just something about the word catsup, and all I can think about is feline tea parties. I’ve tried so hard, but all that I can picture is 5-7 house cats sitting around a card table and nibbling on cucumber sandwiches. And yes, I am aware of how silly that sounds. After all, everyone knows that cats don’t eat cucumbers….
Smoky Roasted Tomato & Chipotle Ketchup
Makes approximately 1/2 liter (4 cups)
- 3.5 lb ripe tomatoes *
- 4 large cloves garlic
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 4 chipotle peppers with 2 tbsp adobo sauce **
- 2 tbsp molasses
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
* That works out to be about 10-12 hot-house tomatoes on the vine, or about 7-8 fat and juicy beefsteaks.
** Canada is a great place to live for so many reasons, such as public health care and a tolerant environment. But not for peppers. Most grocery stores carry jalapeno, scotch bonnet and, well, that’s about it. Maybe a long green chili in a pinch, or possibly a Thai bird’s eye. That’s okay though, because canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are readily available beside the Old El Paso salsa and burrito kits in the “Mexican Food” section of the store (tragedy, I know) and as such they are a veritable staple in my pantry. I love the smoky, spicy adobo sauce. Licking it off my fingers is like a special kind of Scoville induced ecstasy.
Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
Core the tomatoes to cut off those pesky woody tops, and then cut each one vertically in half.
Peel the garlic cloves but leave them whole. Peel the onion as well and slice it into 6-8 wedges, being sure to keep the wedges together.
Toss the tomatoes with the three tablespoons of olive oil until they’re well coated. Spread them cut side up on a baking sheet with a lip. The tomatoes will release a fair bit of juice as they cook down, and you want to be sure that it doesn’t drip down into your oven – partly because of the mess, but more so because the juice is just so darned flavorful that it would be a pity to waste it.
Rub the onion wedges and the garlic cloves in the olive oil as well so that they don’t stick, and give everything a nice sprinkling of salt and a grinding of pepper.
Tuck the baking sheet into the oven to roast away for about 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes are blistered, slightly puffed and meltingly tender.
Scrape the tomatoes, onion and garlic into a blender along with any remaining juices which might have seeped out during the roasting process. I’m telling you, those juices are just pure flavor. Add the chipotle peppers and 2 tbsp adobo sauce, molasses, tomato paste, brown sugar and red wine vinegar.
Puree the mixture until it is smooth and no chunks remain. I am absolutely smitten with my oversized Cuisinart blender, but if you have a smaller blender you will want to process the mixture in at least two batches.
Finally, I don’t want to have to say this but I truly feel compelled: Please exercise extra caution when blending hot liquids. Smoky roasted tomato chipotle ketchup is super cool, but scalding burns on your face and neck are not. Be cautious and go slowly, make sure that your lid has a good seal and hold it firmly in place as you blend, and please be careful when you’re transferring in or out of the blender to avoid splatter. There. Now I’ve said it and I feel better. Some people have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. I have two cardigan wearing Librarians that make me write this stuff, I swear.
Now then, pureeing the mixture will form a nice loose tomato sauce, but that’s not what we want here, is it? No, we want a nice, smooth, thick ketchup. Alright, so off to the pot we go to simmer this sucker down.
Carefully pour the blended sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a medium sized pot. Use a wooden spoon to stir the liquid in the strainer, pressing against the sides to release as much liquid as possible but catching all the solids inside. Discard the solids which are left in the strainer.
Put the pot over medium low heat and let it simmer away for 60-75 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn. Don’t think of this as work though, because you’ll rarely need to be at the stove. I like to think of this as a great excuse to cue up the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy that I missed, wandering into the kitchen every 10 minutes or so for a quick stir during the commercial breaks. After all, this isn’t being lazy – it’s very important that you stay close by to keep an eye on your ketchup development. Yeah. That’s right. And I’ll fight the man who says it isn’t so.
The sauce will thicken as it reduces until you have a nice spreadable consistency. It’s done when the ketchup is thick enough that when you stir your spoon will leave a trail.
I also feel obligated to give you a second warning here: tomato sauce, as it reduces, will splatter until it looks like Jack the Ripper had a heydey on your stovetop. You don’t want to put a lid on the pot or it won’t reduce effectively, but if you have a screen that you can slip on top it may not be a bad idea. And please be mindful of any bare skin as you approach this bubbling lava hot-pot.
Let the ketchup cool completely before use.
Ketchup is quite forgiving, and if you wanted to store this batch for use later on you could pour it into sterilized glass jars and hot-process them in a water bath for 20 minutes. Or, if you have a big BBQ coming up, the ketchup will keep well for several weeks if it’s refrigerated in a tightly sealed container.
Smoky-sweet with a surprisingly sneaky heat, this is the ketchup that our burgers have been waiting for. No longer just an afterthought, this ketchup rises up front and center to let its voice be heard in a chorus of tomatoey goodness. The BBQ gods smile down from above, pleased that finally we silly mortals have done something right. And down below, Billy the Kid is licking his chops and wishing he’d had a longer run.
With a little bit of kitchen love, ketchup can finally come of age.
I know that usually you source a condiment to match your meal, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to make a meal to match your condiment. We went for savory and seasoned home made beef burgers smothered with melty, chewy, smoked Gouda and caramelized onions on a fresh kaiser roll, slathered with grainy Bavarian mustard and this smoky chipotle ketchup. On the side, peppery arugula salad in a buttermilk dill ranch dressing.
Aw yeah. I mean, really. Cholesterol be damned, sometimes you’ve just gotta do what you’ve just gotta do.
PS – Being a dutiful daughter, I gave some of this ketchup to Mike’s mother and also to my mother when we saw them this weekend….but the remaining jar I kept, because I’m selfish that way. And then I bought both yellow fleshed and sweet potatoes to make oven baked fries, which will probably constitute the better part of our dinner tomorrow night. I can’t wait, and when I go to bed tonight I’ll probably be dreaming dreams of fat potato wedges dancing their way across the sky into a fountain of spicy tomato love-juice. Ahhhh. Sweet dreams indeed.