Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Food Condiment Cats
a rant, a process, a movement

So, ketchup.

It's one of those things that people love with a force that is unrivaled. Well, as far as condiments go. The love people have for their children, their cars, and their religious texts might surpass it a bit? Maybe? Am I even anyone to say?

I have friends who slather their breakfasts in it, pridefully. People who love ketchup tend to also love other people who love ketchup. It's a big massive circle of love, and the glue that holds it all together is thick and red and, generally, full of high fructose corn syrup. It's quite blissful, really.

But let's be honest: ketchup sweetened with agave JUST. DOESN'T. TASTE. AS. GOOD. This is probably because our tastes have grown accustomed to high fructose corn syrup and cane sugar as the ketchup sweetener, unless we're babies and have grown up in the modern age of organic agave-type. Our tastes are all messed! We know no other way! We are stubborn. I recognize all of this when I complain about agave-sweetened ketchup. I am a cog in Heinz's nightmare machine! I try to keep cane sugar out of my diet completely (a hellish task when you live in a town with a heavenly vegan chocolate shop), but ketchup is a concession I (dumbly) make. I like the stuff! I don't love it, though. My identity is nowhere near fastened on ketchup-loving. But heck, it's a really great condiment. No bones about it.

So, our farm share was giving us like, 12 pounds of tomatoes every week. Twelve pounds! That's a lot of tomatoes. We try to all do our parts to get through them: making salsa, making tomato sauce, waking up at all hours of the morning to just devour one like an apple because it feels like our goddamn civic duty. And, what's a really good way to cook down a bunch of the little buddies? In waltzes ketchup! The dream condiment. Yes, I shall make ketchup.

The recipe goes a bit like this:

4 pounds of tomatoes, seeded & diced
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
a shake of powdered cloves
a few shakes of black pepper
1/2 cup lemon juice
agave nectar, to taste

First, dice up your tomatoes. You have to seed the things, which is a total bummer of a task, ask anyone. Take out the seeds and the gelatinous seed surroundings, then dice up the solid tomato matter. Throw the gelatinous seed junk at your enemies! Or, put it in your compost.

Dice up your onion and garlic!

Put these in your saucepan on the stove with the apple juice. Let it come to a boil, then add the bay leaf, apple cider vinegar, cloves, and black pepper. 

When it's reduced to about half its original size, add your lemon juice. 

(Sidenote: While waking from my car to the supermarket tonight, I found a pristine lemon sitting in the parking lot, away from any cars. Let my tombstone read that I am NOT (at all) above picking up neglected fruit found in parking lots. I consider that lemon a gift from an alternate universe! Or, a negligent shopper! Either way, a free lemon. This cannot be argued with.)

Let it boil awhile until it seems like most of the liquid bits have boiled off. I am no ketchup-making expert, and this approximation-filled description should spell that out loud and clear. When it seems like it's at the point ketchup should be, remove the bay leaf, and take your trusty immersion blender and go to it! If you don't have an immersion blender, run out and buy one immediately. Your life will get really good, really fast.

Add agave nectar (or sugar, you fiend!) to the ketchup, to taste. Make it as sweet as you want, okay? Have a dear friend go get you some french fries so you can REALLY test that stuff out. Put it in a neat jar after it cools, and stick it in the fridge.

You have now made ketchup. You can brag about this, if you want! You don't even ever have to do it again! Just that once. Making ketchup at home sorta feels like changing your own car's oil: it's good to know how to do, but once you know how to do it, you kind of just feel like it's really fair and better to just dish out money for someone else's handiwork.

They're going to give us more tomatoes tomorrow, I can just sense it. What a horrible complaint for me to make. Take care, dears. Come over and grab a tomato or two if you're in the neighborhood.