Classic Tomato Ketchup


  • 12 lbs tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • ¾ cup diced onion (about 1 baseball-sized)
  • ¾ cup diced red bell pepper (about 1 medium pepper)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1 ½ cups cider vinegar
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken
  • 2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 ½ tsp whole allspice berries
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled OR 2 garlic chive stems, with flower heads
  • 1 ½ cups sugar (organic turbinado)
  • ½ cup, packed, dark brown sugar (organic)
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • ¼ cup tomato paste (optional)


  1. Combine tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, cayenne and celery salt in a large stockpot or Dutch oven (at least 8-quart, preferably larger). Crush the tomatoes slightly with a potato masher to produce enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tomatoes are soft and falling apart, about 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, add the vinegar to a small saucepan. Combine the whole spices in a mesh tea ball or cheesecloth bag and add to the vinegar. Add garlic clove or chives, flower head down. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for about 30 minutes. Remove spice ball and garlic, then add infused vinegar to the tomato mixture. Simmer tomatoes, uncovered, for another 30 minutes.
  3. In batches, run the tomato mixture through a food mill (fine disk) to remove seeds & skins. Alternatively, press through a sieve, or pureƩ in a food processor then sieve. Return pulp to the stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until the volume is reduced by about half, and the texture is about the thickness of a thick tomato sauce, about 3 hours at a gentle simmer. Increase the heat to shorten the simmer time, but you will need to stir more frequently to prevent burning. At this point, I chose to refrigerate the tomato pulp and continue the recipe the following day.
  4. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
  5. Blend tomato pulp with an immersion blender or pureĆ© in a food processor. Return to stockpot, add sugar & salt, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, (use a splatter guard if you have one) until the mixture thickens to the consistency of thin commercial ketchup, about 1 hour (ketchup will further thicken upon cooling). Stir in optional tomato paste if using. Fill hot jars to ½-inch headspace, remove air bubbles, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes for pint, half-pint or quarter-pint jars. Serve the leftovers with spicy oven fries!

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