Homemade Ketchup with Canning Instructions #Unprocessed

One of the biggest challenges I've faced as I've made changes to my diet has been finding condiments that don't contain High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Some condiments, like ketchup and sweet relish, have been next to impossible to find healthy replacements for. I could attempt to completely eliminate them from my diet, but I'm not sure I could live a life without ketchup covering my fries. I've been meaning to try my hand at making it myself, but fresh tomatoes are fairly expensive in my area so I've been putting off the project and buying an organic ketchup from Whole Foods. It's not quite as good and Heinz, but it gets the job done.

While I was out at the farmers' market a few weekends ago I stumbled across someone selling canning tomatoes for $0.99 per lb, which is the least expensive I've come across tomatoes all year. I quickly snapped up five pounds with the intention of making ketchup as soon as I got home. I pulled out my stock-pot so I could blanch the tomatoes and remove the skins, only to find out our gas was off. A few phone calls and 1 repair man later I was ready to go, it turns out the gas company had decided to upgrade our meter while I was out shopping and shut off the gas pending an inspection. When I questioned why they didn't call me to make an appointment I was told they just assumed people would be home on a Saturday. Guys that is about the stupidest thing anyone has said to me in a long time. 

Anyway, back to the ketchup.

As soon as our repair man left I boiled my water, blanched my tomatoes, and proceeded to spend a lot of time running them through a food mill. I've never used a food mill before, it's really quite the workout, but in the end the effort was worth it. This is some tasty ketchup, although it's not quite the consistency of commercial ketchup, it's a bit on the chunky side. I wasn't sure how I felt about that at first, but the texture has grown on me. We've already run through 3 of the 4 quarter pint jars I've put up. As soon as I have some free time I'll definitely be making more, although I'm curious to see if I can skip a few steps and work with tomato paste instead so I can save some time and mess.


Homemade Ketchup
makes 4 quarter pints


5 pounds tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ medium sized yellow onion, diced
⅔ cup apple cider vinegar (see notes)
¼ cup white sugar or turbinado sugar (see notes)
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon allspice, ground
½ teaspoon cloves, ground
½ teaspoon peppercorns, whole
½ teaspoon cinnamon, ground
⅛ teaspoon cayenne, ground
⅛ teaspoon ginger, ground


food mill
water-bath canner or stock pot with lifter
4 quarter pint jars, 2 half pint jars, or 1 pint jar with lids and rings
jar grabber
magnetic lid lifter
butter knife
clean dish towels and cloths 


  • Boil a large pot of water. Working in small batches, score the bottom of the tomatoes with an X and cook for 30 - 45 seconds. Transfer blanched tomatoes to a bowl of ice water and the skins will come right off.
  • Remove the cores and skins, then cut into large chunks and place in a non-reactive stock pot. 
  • Add diced onions and minced garlic, then cook on high for 10 - 15 minutes to allow the juices to release.
  • Remove tomatoes from the heat and allow them to cool slightly, then pass the everything through a food mill. If you have several sized screens you'll want to use the smallest so the seeds don't pass through.
  • Return the pulp to your stock-pot, add apple cider vinegar, sugar, and salt. Place your spices in a tea bag or piece of cheese cloth, then continue to boil the tomatoes until they have reduces to the desired consistency. This can take 2 hours or more depending on how much liquid you tomatoes produced.
  • Store finished ketchup in the refrigerator for up to a month, or processes using a waterbath (see instructions below) for storage up to a year.

Canning Instructions

  • Before canning sterilize your canning jars, rings, and any other equipment that will come into contact with the ketchup. You can do this easily by putting everything in the dishwasher and running it. Just don't put your equipment in with dirty dishes.
  • While your jars are sterilizing fill your stock pot with water and let it boil. It takes awhile for a large pot of water to boil, so keep this in mind. You don't want to fill your jars before your water is ready.
  • Once you're ready to fill your jars, place a sauce pan on the stove. Add your canning lids and fill pan with several inches of water. Bring the water to a simmer and allow the sealing wax on the lids to soften for several minutes.
  • Fill sterilized jars with hot ketchup leaving 1/4 inch head space at the top. Remove air bubbles with a knife, wipe the rims with a clean damp rag, place lids on top and fasten ring until fingertip tight.
  • Place sealed jars on a rack in the canner or stock pot. Make sure jars are covered with water and that the waterline is about an inch over the top of the jars, then cover pot with lid.

You do not want the jars coming into contact with the bottom of the canner or stock pot because they will bounce around and likely break.

  • Process quarter pints, half pints, and pints for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude if necessary. Time starts once the water has come to a complete boil again. You may need to add boiling water to keep the water level up as the jars are processing.
  • Remove jars from canner, set on a clean dish towel and let them rest for several hours until cool. You should hear a popping sound as the lids seal. 
  • To check the seals of your jars, once cool you can press the center gently with your finger. If it moves up and down the jar is not sealed. You can either reprocess using a new lid never reuse an old lid or once the jar is cool, eat the applesauce. You know you want to and you deserve the treat after such hard work!
  • Label with detailed contents and date, then store in a cool, dark, and dry place.


While I did not test this recipe with turbinado sugar you should have no problem substituting it for the white sugar called for in the recipe. You'll still use ¼ cup of sugar, or less if you desire a slightly less sweet ketchup.

If you don't have apple cider vinegar you can use white vinegar, but the ketchup will be less sweet.

Russian Dressing

Several years ago during one of my many road trips, I stopped off at a deli for a Reuben and was completely blown away by the flavor packed into my sandwich. It was the best Reuben I'd ever had, miles ahead of anything that had previously crossed my lips and I've eaten a fair amount of Reubens in my time. It was a slow day in the shop so I spend a good 20 minutes talking with the owner trying to pin down what was so different about this particular sandwich. He proudly told me that what made his sandwich the best was the fact that everything was made from scratch in house except for the cheese which was locally made by a family friend. He went into great detail about the process of curing the corned beef, fermenting the sauerkraut, and how easy it was to make the dressing from scratch. During our talk you could tell that he enjoyed his craft and took enjoyment from the looks of ecstasy that crossed his customer's faces as they took their first bite.

From our conversation I took away several things, first of all I wanted to try to make my own corned beef some day and second, I was going to stop buying commercially prepared salad dressing. Before that conversation I never stopped to think about how easy it would be to make my own, I just picked up a bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch whenever it was on sale and never gave it a second though. I'm pretty sure my love of convenience foods came to an end in the weeks following this conversation, as I realized what I had been missing out on. One of the first dressings I decided to tackle was Russian dressing, since as you can tell, I love a good Reuben and often make them at home. Not only is this dressing great on a Reuben, it's perfect on top of an ordinary salad to make it a little more interesting and it's a necessity for the Reuben salad recipe that I will be posting soon as part of our what to do with the leftover series.



1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup ketchup
1 teaspoon onion, minced
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 teaspoon dill pickle, minced
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons parsley, dried
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 


  • In a bowl combine mayonnaise, ketchup, minced onion, horseradish, minced dill pickle, Worcestershire sauce, dried parsley, paprika, and black pepper. Mix well and refrigerate at least two hours before serving to allow the flavors to combine.

Recipe Inspiration

Adapted from a Russian Dressing recipe from food.com