Making ketchup

Friday 30th September 2016

Ketchup is one of those magical foods that bears almost no relation to the ingredients it's made from. Go to your fridge now and eat a teaspoon of ketchup straight from the bottle. Does it taste of tomatoes? Does it taste of anything apart from sugar and vinegar? Quite.

I wanted to try making ketchup to see the transformation from a bunch of fruit into a delicious goo. The secret? The recipe is 25% sugar. 

I started off with a recipe I found on the Guardian website and adapted it - mainly to reduce the insane quantities of sugar and salt! I wanted to make a regular Heinz style one, and a Bloody Mary ketchup as sold by Stokes, because everything's better with chilli in it. 

Below you can see the ingredients - well, the tomatoes, everything else is underneath. After an hour and a half it's reduced down into a sweet gooey mess. 


Makes about 1.25 litres

  • 1.5kg tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 40g salt
  • 350g sugar
  • 40ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 6 whole cloves

Optional Blood Mary additions:

  • 2 tbsp vodka
  • A good glug of Worcestershire sauce
  • Chilli to taste


Put all the ingredients in a pan and simmer for about an hour and a half. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't burn.

When it's reduced down by about half, puree it in a food processor and then sieve into a clean pan.

Adjust the thickness with water if too thick, or reduce some more if it seems too thin. Bear in mind that it's going to be a lot thicker when it's cold.

Allow to cool, bottle and serve. 

The verdict

"Amazing", "delicious", "oh, I thought it was shop-bought", "got a good kick", and "as good as Heinz" were some of the comments people made. 

But therein lies the futility of this recipe: Heinz have perfected ketchup over the last 140 years, but they've also become deeply entrenched in your soul as the standard for ketchup. So the best I can ever hope for is "as good as Heinz". And their product is a fraction of the cost of mine. 

Interesting, but I won't be doing it again. 



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