Before we get going, I'd just like to say that this is the first and only time I've made my own ketchup. This is something special, I did it to do it, not because I believe that packaged condiments are tiny, satanic advocates for an unhealthy life. Because I will All Day Jam on some sweet-hot mustard. All Day Jam and all night, too. You have that condiment, right? The one you'll put on everything, the thing that turns legitimate food into vessels and excuses. Can I tell you about the time, maybe the recent past, maybe too close for comfort, where I spent enough time to worry myself drenching/dunking (which would be a GREAT name for a hybrid basketball/water park theme restaurant, one I hope Stephon would recommend) sticks of room temperature string cheese into a styrofoam cup of Frank's Red Hot, a tiny bottle of which I borrowed from the hotel's restaurant? No, right? I can't. Legally. Okay. So I won't.
I was out of state. In my defense, that was a rough week.
The thing about making your own condiments, especially when winging it, is that it is really pleasing when they turn out. Like this is a science experiment, backyard mud pie style, that won't kill anyone or shut your house down, really shut it down like with big plastic tents and the 6 o'clock news doing live broadcasts 50 feet away while you stand there weeping, ice packs held to your eyes as you say something about just wanting to make your own mustard. Ketchup won't do that to you.
This recipe is pretty basic, and my only advice is to taste often and stop just before things are sour/sweet enough - the flavors pump up as it cools. You can whiz everything in a blender or processor for ultra-smoothness, but cut the onions small enough before you even begin and they'll melt into nothing.
1 cup tomato puree, homemade or canned
¼ small yellow onion, finely diced
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon maple syrup (less if you like)
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
½ heaping teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 large pinch dark brown sugar
In a small saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onion in a small bit of olive oil until golden brown and soft. Add the brown sugar and maple syrup, and let bubble away until syrupy. Add the salt, and the vinegar – which should send up a sour WHOOSH of steam and sound. Turn the heat down a bit and let simmer and thicken for a moment, until vinegar has almost evaporated. Now add the remaining ingredients, stirring well. Cook over low heat, whisking often until thick, slurpy and a handsome brick-red color (around 30 minutes – turn heat down if it seems to be scorching). Check for seasoning – I had to add more vinegar and salt for my liking. Once done, remove from the heat, let come to room temperature and serve. Or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to one week.