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Ketchup or Catsup? Make Your Own

Whether you call it Ketchup or Catsup, we all love vibrant tomato ketchup for one reason or another. I can’t imagine eating pot roast without it, and it is divine with burgers and fries.

Did you know you can make it at home? Leave all the preservatives, artificial flavorings, high fructose corn syrups, red dyes behind you and follow this recipe. This looks vibrant, tastes great and your friends and family will simply LOVE it! Best of all, you know exactly what is in the food you are serving.

Picmonkey Homemade tomato ketchup

This is one small way we can take control of our food and avoid GMO‘s, high fructose corn syrup and other hidden sugars, fats, salts and preservatives. Take a stand against Big Food and learn to make your own ketchup! It’s small, but it will have a very healthy effect of your family!

Homemade Ketchup

For the spiced vinegar:

  • 1-1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon broken stick cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed

For the ketchup:

  • 5 ½ pounds tomatoes
  • 1 cup granulated sugar – separated into two ½ cup measurements
  • ½ medium onion chopped fine
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon non-iodized salt

Method:

Combine the first four ingredients. Bring to a boil; remove from heat then set aside to cool.

Wash the tomatoes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove the core from the top of the tomatoes and cut a shallow X into the bottom end.

A "Tomato Shark" makes removing the blossom end simple and quick

A “Tomato Shark” makes removing the blossom end simple and quick

Scratch a shallow X on the bottom

Scratch a shallow X on the bottom

The skin will split when ready, the more ripe the tomato, the quicker this happens.

The skin will split when ready, the more ripe the tomato, the quicker this happens.

When the skin splits, plunge into ice water to stop cooking.

When the skin splits, plunge into ice water to stop cooking.

Slip the skins off the tomatoes, cut and squeeze out the seeds.

Slip the skins off the tomatoes, cut and squeeze out the seeds.

Set a large bowl of ice water near the pot of boiling water. Place the prepped tomatoes into the boiling water. As soon as the skin splits, remove and place the warm tomatoes in the ice water to stop cooking.

Slip the skins off the tomatoes. Slice them in half around the center of the tomato, not from top to bottom. Squeeze gently to remove all seeds. Do this over a strainer that is over a bowl to catch the juices that come from squeezing the seeds out.

Cut the tomatoes in quarters. Combine half of the tomatoes with ½ cup sugar, onion, garlic and cayenne pepper in a deep stainless steel pot. Bring to a boil and allow the tomato mixture to boil vigorously for 30 minutes, stirring often to avoid scorching.

After 30 minutes, add the remaining tomatoes and sugar and boil for another 30 minutes. At this point you will need to stir it often as the mixture gets thick.

Strain the vinegar and discard the spices. Add the spiced vinegar to the boiling tomato mixture, stirring constantly for 15 minutes or until the desired texture is reached.

Test the consistency by placing a small amount of the ketchup on a small plate. There should be no watery run off. If there is, keep cooking.

For smooth ketchup, puree using a stick blender, or use a blender to puree the hot mixture. Bottle the hot mixture in sterilized jars or another non-reactive container.

Store under refrigeration unless processing in a water bath canner. An “Old Wives” trick is to wrap each jar in brown paper to protect the color during storage. Not necessary if you store the jars in the refrigerator.

A vibrant bowl of homemade ketchup

A vibrant bowl of homemade ketchup

How to Boil Pasta

Cooking spaghetti. Photo by Eloquence.

See how the oil sits on top? Do not put oil in pasta water, it just goes down the drain. Oil pasta after cooking.

Dear Tyler,

Here is another assumption I made. Since your father is Italian, and you grew up eating pasta, I assumed you knew how to cook it.

Boiling pasta is really quite simple.

You need to use a pot big enough to hold enough water to cook the amount of pasta you need. Err on too much water rather than not enough water.

English: Boling water in colour

Bring the water to a boil. A boil is when the bubbles actively break the surface. A boil measures 212°F (100°C) on a thermometer. A lid on the pot will help water boil faster. If you live in a high altitude (like the mountain house) water won’t boil without a lid, and the boiling point decreases 1° every 500 feet in elevation (or 1° C every 285 meters). it has everything to do with atmospheric pressure. Actually, boiling point is quite a science subject.

Always salt the water AFTER it reaches an active boil. In the science community, adding a solute to the water creates a solution that raises the temperature of the boiling point. Scientists will argue that it is not necessary to add salt because the amount of increased temperature isn’t worth it to ‘cook faster’. This is not why we add salt.

We add salt for flavor.

We add salt after a boil is reached so the salt does not pit our pots over a lifetime of poor cooking habits.

Most of all, we add salt to things we boil for flavor. Boiled potatoes are ever so bland when salt is left out. The amount required isn’t much, just enough to lightly flavor the water.

Be aware, when you add salt to boiling water, the water will flare up momentarily. Be ready for it to avoid getting burned.

Choose your favorite pasta and read the package it comes in. Look for cooking directions for the time it takes to cook the pasta to “Al-dente“. Each pasta will have different cooking times.

Place the pasta in the pot, stir it up so it does not stick together. If using a long pasta, don’t break it so it fits in the pot! Short strands are hard to twirl onto the fork.

Lean the noodles up against the side of the pot and using tongs, as the pasta under the water softens, fold the rest of the pasta under the water. Be sure to stir it all around so nothing gets stuck either to other pasta strands or the bottom or sides of the pot.

This is especially true of fettuccine or linguine and other flat pasta.

Comparison between different types of long Ita...

Comparison between different types of long Italian pasta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Set a timer fort the required time.

If cooking fresh pasta, the time will be very short, dried pasta takes longer.

Drain the pasta in a colander and try to save about a cup of the pasta water.

Boiling pasta

Boiling pasta. Fold the ends under the water as the pasta softens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you notice there was never a mention to put oil in the water while boiling?

Ha! That is because the oil sits on the top of the water while the pasta is below the water. It does nothing to keep the pasta from sticking together.

Stirring the pasta after you first put it in the water does.

After draining, put the pasta into a serving bowl and drizzle with a great olive oil.

Serve as you like.

If you are going to use the pasta in a salad or need it cold, rinse the pasta in cold water after draining to stop the cooking process. Drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking.

If the pasta gets dry or you need more moisture in your sauce, add a small bit of the pasta water. This is why you do not want to over salt the water. Only salt it enough to make it taste good.

If you want to re-heat pasta that has been refrigerated, simple bring water to a boil and dip the pasta in for a minute or so, just to warm it, not cook it. This can be done in a small amount of water.

Drain and serve as desired.

This works for all kinds of pasta, semolina, whole wheat, rice, artichoke, quinoa etc. Read the package for length of cooking time.

Short pasta

Short pasta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Short pasta

Short pasta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pasta is a great budget stretcher so learn to cook it correctly.

The basic technique:

Boil the water – use lots of water!

Salt after water boils

Stir the pasta after adding to boiling water to prevent sticking

Drain

Drizzle with olive oil and serve

OR

Drain, rinse  in cold water to cool and drizzle with oil.

Enjoy!

Love, Mom

Pasta again!

Pasta again! (Photo credit: HatM)

A Southern Staple: Simple Syrup

Bottle of simple syrup

This basic southern staple, simple syrup, is a must have in any kitchen or bar.

This style of syrup is used all over the world for lots of things, not just in the south.

It is, however the secret to true southern iced tea.

Simple syrup is easy and quick to make and there are endless ways to use it in the kitchen and bar.

Basic Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water, enough to cover the sugar by 1/2 inch.
  • 3-4 drops lemon juice

Put sugar in a sauce pot

Add water to cover sugar by 1/2 inch; add 2-3 drops of lemon juice, stir

Bring to a boil; boil for 1-2 minutes

Place a ‘sign or symbol’ to signify pot is hot;
Put the pot away from accidents to cool

Method:

Put the sugar in a sauce pot, add water to cover the sugar by 1/2 inch. Stir well.

Place the pot over high heat; add the lemon juice and bring to a boil.

Stir, not constantly, but often enough to prevent scorching on the bottom.

Once the mixture comes to a boil, the sugar will turn clear. Allow to boil for 1-2 minutes, turn off.

Cool the mixture before transferring to a jar or bottle.

While the sugar syrup is cooling, put some kind of “sign or symbol” on the  handle so others know the pot and contents are hot and to leave the pot alone.

Use caution and place the pot well to the back of the stove out of harms way.

Sugar burns are very nasty and go really deep. Avoid at all costs, especially around children.

The syrup is shelf stable. Keep it handy to sweeten iced tea, lemonade, tea or coffee, use it over fresh fruit, in meringues, or even in marinades and specialty bar drinks.

You can infuse flavors into simple syrup, add a vanilla pod, lemon, lime or orange zest, fruit puree, basil, lavender, or mint for a few ideas. Be sure to strain the flavor elements out before using. The vanilla pods or herb leaves do look nice in the bottle.

My favorite way to use this syrup is to splash some into iced tea and top with a lemon wedge.

The perfect thirst quencher!

Iced Tea and Simple Syrup