The low-down on ketchup

IT IS QUITE LIKELY the most ubiquitous condiment in American households. Whether you call it “ketchup,” “catsup” or “catchup,” you likely have a bottle or two adorning a refrigerator shelf at this very moment.

Americans love the stuff and that’s putting it mildly. Somehow, per capita consumption is 71 pounds a year. I know I don’t use that much; do you? Of course not. And that means there are some folks out there who aren’t just dipping their fries in the viscous substance, they are slathering, immersing even drowning them.

Ketchup as we know it today — based on tomatoes — has evolved over several centuries.

The original condiment was made from fermented fish and originated either in Vietnam or China (the word ke-tsiap is from a Chinese dialect).

Americans added the tomatoes — after experimenting with mushrooms, walnuts and many other substances. But this was only after the Italians proved tomatoes were not — as previously thought — poisonous. (The word tomato is all American, if you consider that the word is derived from “tomatl” in the native Aztec language of Nahuatl.)

Heinz entered the picture by mass producing ketchup in the late 1800s with its tomato version and added vinegar mostly as a preservative in the 1920s. So the stuff we use today has gone through quite a bit of change.

In our household, we have been diligent over the past few years in examining sugar and salt content in our foods and ketchup came up high on the list. Not to pick on Heinz, but one tablespoon of their commercial grade ketchup contains 4 grams of sugar and 160 milligrams of salt.

According to my calculations, that 71 pounds per year breaks down to 6 tablespoons per day. So an average meal of store-bought ketchup is filling you up with 24 grams of sugar and 960 milligrams of salt. That’s if you’re an average user. If you’re above average, you are obviously ingesting vastly larger quantities of refined sucrose and sodium.

So we set out to find a homemade recipe for ketchup that eliminates the added sugar and salt. It was much easier than expected.

And, in fact, you likely have all the ingredients in your pantry and can whip up a batch in pretty much the time it will take you to peruse and complete your comparison shopping of the 99 different varieties lining your favorite grocery store.

Here is all you need:

  • 6 oz. organic tomato paste (make sure it has no added salt or sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Pinch (1/8 tsp) of cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cloves

Stir together all ingredients. Set in refrigerator for about a half hour before use. Some recipes (this one was adapted from Bobby Parrish) call for simmering on the stove. You can certainly try that and see if it makes a difference. For us, the raw deal is the real deal and it saves time!

Now, we are on the hunt for home-made mustard.

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