The Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes held on longer than most of the other garden plants, but we have gleaned a last harvest from them now, too. They are small and very sweet and flavorful, and grow in dripping clusters. I grow them every year, whether I plant them or not – they are always coming up in unexpected places, even untended places like the very dry and infertile edges of one of the pig pastures!
There were so many at the end of the season, and they spoil rather more quickly than we can eat them, that we ended up making sauce and boiling it down into tomato paste. It was the sweetest, most flavor-filled tomato paste I’ve ever tried, like eating a spoonful of summer sunshine. I thought it probably could have passed for ketchup unsweetened and unflavored, but then again I am not a ketchup connoisseur the way my children are.
My children became fond of the sugary condiment while at the grandparents’ house next door, where they were allowed to serve themselves from a young age. We would find them eating organic hot dogs, with red pools of ketchup all over their plates. I never really bought ketchup – it wasn’t something I used much, and it’s so hard to find ketchup with good ingredients. Even organic brands will have mysterious “spices” that can hide flavor chemicals.
One fateful evening we were having hamburgers and (gasp!) we had NO ketchup! I had a jar of tomato paste in the cupboard, and seeing that there was going to be a riot at the dinner table unless certain family members could slather their hamburgers in ketchup, I made an attempt to recreate the flavor myself. That’s when I discovered just how easy it is to make your own very fine-tasting ketchup at home.
The great thing about it being home-made is that you can tailor it to your own tastes. It doesn’t have to be syrupy sweet, like the store-bought stuff. And it is simple to mix up. At the tender age of 9, Rose has learned all the spices and ingredients that go into it, and will make it for me while I am frying potatoes or hamburgers.
Keep in mind that all the amounts can vary according to your taste – it you want it more salty, sweet, or vinegary, just add more, or less, to suit.
1 big bowl full of cherry tomatoes, plucked from the stems
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons honey
1/4 cup apple cider or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
- Put the cherry tomatoes in a pot, and without adding any water, set it over low heat to cook. Water will be drawn out of the tomatoes while they are cooking, but check occasionally to make sure they are not burning or sticking on the bottom.
- When the tomatoes are very well cooked and soft, let them cool a while, and then run them through a food mill (I use a Foley food mill). This removes all seeds and skins, and makes beautiful sauce.
- Now that it is saucy, put it back over low heat and simmer until the sauce has thickened into a tomato paste. This concentrates the flavors and sugars. I can’t tell you how much better it tastes from the store-bought tomato paste!
- When the tomato paste is cool, add all other ingredients and mix well. See if you can go back to store-bought ketchup after trying some fresh-from-the-garden!