Ketchup brings life to otherwise dull food. That is why there is always that classic story of that unfortunate kid that puts ketchup on everything. I remember my brother telling me of a friend of his making a ketchup sandwich once. Yes, that is exactly what it sounds like; half Heinze, half Wonder Bread. Even worse, someone told me they once ate the ketchup out of a package once just as a snack. That last one is a pretty extreme case of addiction but you get my point. So what is in this stuff? What makes it so damn good? I’ll answer that question by walking you through how I make my ketchup. You’ll need:
- 1 bulb of garlic
- 1/2 of a medium sized white onion
- 1 medium to large tomato
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp sugar
- Worcestershire sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
1. Sweetness Everyone loves the sweetness that ketchup has. Here is how I keep that sweetness. I throw the garlic, onion, and tomato into and oven at 300f. They will all cook at different times so you are going to have to keep an eye on each one. The garlic will finish first as it is the smallest item by a long shot. The onion may be smaller than the tomato but they will likely finish cooking at the same time as the tomato is much softer. By roasting these ingredients you’ll be intensifying the flavour of each ingredient. Moreover, the raw garlic and onion will become extremely sweet and flavourful in a unique way that store-bought ketchup doesn’t have. On top of this you’ll also be adding some sugar as well but I will talk more about this later.
2. Sourness Ketchup also has an element of acidity as well which helps wake up and bring out the flavours of whatever you are having it with. This is just me but McDonald’s french fries seem awfully dull and heavy on their own but bright and delightful with the simple addition of ketchup. How I keep this element of acidity is I reduce a tablespoon of any vinegar in a pot before I toss in the roasted vegetables. The vinegar I like to use depends on what I’m eating. When I’m eating my ketchup with french fries I like fish and chips vinegar however when I’m eating it with eggs I like to use just plain white vinegar.
3. The taste of ketchup is pretty unique. There are tons of tomato based sauces out there. There are curries, salsas, chilies, pasta sauces… the list goes on. Tomatoes have been flavored each and every way and with ketchup the key ingredient for me is nutmeg. I’ve chosen to use equal quantities of nutmeg, allspice, and sugar but use my recipe as a guideline and spice it to however you like your ketchup.
Now that you know three reasons as to why ketchup makes food tastes so good I’m going to have to burst your bubble. These three things although important, are nothing compared to the last element I’m about to tell you about.
4. There is a reason why so many culinary cultures has coincidentally chosen to smother their foods with tomato based sauces like I mentioned earlier. Ripe tomatoes are high in Umami components. Umami is the taste of savoury which might explain why curry chicken, chili, salsa and chips, meatballs and tomato sauce, and french fries and ketchup are all classics in their own parts of the world. Umami has been scientifically documented to induce salivation and stimulate all parts of your mouth including your tongue all the way to the back of your throat!
So… what I like to do is boost the levels of Umami in my ketchup by adding a few splashes of Worcestershire Sauce at the end along with salt to taste.
What you might notice is this ketchup is a bit more lumpy than your regular store bought ketchup. I kind of like when I can identify all the different ingredients in my food but if you want a smoother paste-like ketchup it is as easy as throwing it in a blender until you are happy with the consistency.