The best ketchup I ever had was called Grand Lyon and it was made with Bordeaux wine. I had it on a burger at a friend’s BBQ and after the party immediately went to the store and bought some. Before that experience, it was my dad’s homemade ketchup that he made one year when we had a bumper crop of backyard tomatoes. It was rich and sweet and luscious. Neither ketchups were like anything I’d had before or since. That is until July 5th when street food vendor Nathan Beck (@nate_dogs) came over to my house and we made our own ketchup.
Nate and I met through Twitter as I fanatically retweeted food truck locations whenever they came to St. Paul. Nate is about the most interactive vendor out there, which is just one element of many that make him a success. His hot dogs and hot dog-sized brats are among the best you’ll have. He serves up his own sauerkraut and carmelized onions and tops them off with a variety of mustards made with local beer. Very tasty stuff. Oh, and as the sign on his cart says, “Ketchup available upon request.” He holsters it on the street side of his tool belt. The mustards appear prominently curbside. I ordered a brat and a dog with the fixins and Surly mustard. Delicious!
I had an errand to run but when I was finished I walked back to Nate’s spot, waited for his customers to get their orders and told him about Grand Lyon, the Minnesota Grape Growers Association, the growing wine and grape industry and suggested we make some ketchup. Without hesitation, he agreed. We planned to meet at my house to taste some wine and test some recipes. Nate picked the recipes and shopped the ingredient lists. I selected 2 local wines that I enjoy and knew would pair well with pork: Warehouse Winery Marquette and Fieldstone Vineyards St. Croix.
After tasting both wines, we narrowed Nate’s four recipes to two and started cooking:
HOMEMADE KETCHUP (Adapted from Gourmet magazine 6/09)
MAKES ABOUT 2 3/4 CUPS
ACTIVE TIME:20 MIN START TO FINISH:3 HR (INCLUDES COOLING)
1 (28- to 32-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoons ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (freshly ground)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (freshly ground)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup Marquette wine (reduced in volume by half)
Purée tomatoes with juice in a blender until smooth.
Cook onion in oil with 1/4 tsp salt in a 4-qt heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add spices and 1/2 tsp pepper and cook, stirring frequently, 1 minute. Add tomato purée, tomato paste, brown sugar, and wine and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until very thick, 45 to 55 minutes (stir more frequently toward end of cooking to prevent scorching).
Purée ketchup in blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Chill at least 2 hours (for flavors to develop).
Ketchup keeps, chilled, 1 month.
Ketchup (Adapted from Jamie Oliver)
1 large red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
Thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 a fresh red pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
Bunch fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 32oz can of whole tomatoes (Muir Glen is best)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons St. Croix wine (reduced)
1/3 cup light brown sugar
Place all the vegetables in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan with a big splash of olive oil and the ginger, garlic, chili, basil stalks, coriander seeds and cloves. Season with the pepper and a good pinch of salt.
Cook gently over a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until softened, stirring every so often. Add all the tomatoes and 1 1/2 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently until the sauce reduces by half.
Add the basil leaves, then whiz the sauce in a food processor or with a hand blender and push it through a sieve twice, to make it smooth and shiny. Put the sauce into a clean pan and add the wine and the sugar. Place the sauce on the heat and simmer until it reduces and thickens to the consistency of tomato ketchup. At this point, correct the seasoning to taste.
Spoon the ketchup through a sterilized funnel into sterilized bottles, then seal tightly and place in a cool dark place or the refrigerator until needed - it should keep for 6 months.
We polished off the wine while cooking, reserving just enough to splash into each pot for good measure. The Marquette ketchup is thick and rich with a leaning to an almost apple taste. The spices help it toward that flavor as well. So, naturally, it’s perfect with pork. The St. Croix ketchup has more of a traditional ketchup flavor. This is not to say it tastes anything like Heinz. This is much richer with less sweetness and a much stronger tomato flavor. Great with pork and also on burgers.
We split each batch to keep for ourselves (my family really liked them) and then Nate recreated them in his prep kitchen to bring to the street. I just got back from sampling the St. Croix on a Natedog along side a dog with Nate's latest beer mustard. Both were excellent. If you don't think ketchup belongs on a hot dog, you haven't tried this ketchup. Cheers!