"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

August 30, 2011

Homemade Catsup

I have been canning like a crazy woman. I've always canned a slew of fruits and vegetables each year since we've been married, or a few items, but never to this extent. It's almost as if an instinct for provision has kicked in: line your shelves, stuff your freezers, feed your young, winter's coming. It makes me think of a passage from one of my favorite Anne Sexton poems, "I have found the warm caves in the woods, filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves, closets, silks, innumerable goods..." 

I'm just here filling our cave.

The fruits of our labor: 80 plus jars of various things and 12 hours later...
So busy, I forgot: yesterday was
 Farmwife Monday. Here she is!
I haven't done a cost analysis of this process and I don't dare. I'm already an expert sale shopper and it's likely I'd save more that way for most products. But here's the thing about putting your own food by: you know what's in it, it's (usually) locally grown or right from your own garden, you will have to shop less in winter months, you can hunker in for a while if necessary. Besides, it is immensely therapeutic whether solo or with a friend or family member. The process is its own reward.

The makings of ketchup  simmering in a big old kettle on the stove.
This is a catsup recipe I've made now in two batches. The first was not quite as thick so I wanted to tweak it the second time before posting. You may just never buy bottled ketchup again (or 'catsup': it's how my grandparents would have spelled it.)

Homemade Ketchup
  • 8 quarts tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. pickling spice
  • 4 cups sugar (I used 2-3 cups)
  • 1 tsp. pepper (or more to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground clove (you could also use allspice or ginger)
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 24 Tbsp. Perm-Flo**
  • 2-3 cups vinegar

Cook together the first nine ingredients for 1 hour, uncovered, in a large kettle. Press through colander or Foley Food Mill (the Victorio Food Strainer works like a charm, too, and I'm finally overcoming my fear of all of those parts). 

Return mixture to kettle and bring to a boil. Add the Perm-Flo to vinegar, stir, Add slowly to hot mixture while stirring. It will start to thicken almost immediately. Boil 20 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour into hot, sterilized pint or quart jars and boil sealed jars in hot water canner for 15 minutes [I time it for 15 minutes at the boil; then I turn off the kettle and let it rest, covered, for 15 more minutes. This avoids pressure release of the hot juice. If the mixture has cooled you need to pack it in hot sterilized jars but put jars in cold water and bring them to a boil to avoid breakage.]

Oh, and here's the best part: I got 14 pints of nice, fairly thick catsuppy goodness out of this recipe. I also made another batch before this last week that is not quite as thick but that will be great in meatloaf, chili or whatever.

**Or 10 Tbsp. Clear Jell. I used that in my salsa last year and it gives a somewhat chalky taste. Perm-Flo does not and it also works well when canning and freezing. Both are corn starch products and natural thickeners. Surprisingly there isn't much on-line about these products. I get them at our local Old Order Mennonite bulk foods store, Sunny Valley Country Store in Liberty, Kentucky. 

Actually from a 1950s ad for aluminum. But yeah, she can make it,  too.
The above recipe was modified from one found in the Community Collection Cookbook published by the Evona Volunteer Fire Department in Casey County, Kentucky. It is attributed to Mrs. Aaron N. Hoover.

You come back when you're ready!


More from the Chickabiddy Canning Kitchen: I love this website: Canning Across America. Canning has become this cool foodie thing, not that it ever died out, really, in rural areas. But it is a great thing to be doing and promoting, even more self-sustaining and benevolent than knitting. But I figure the more I put up now, the more I can knit, read and write in the winter. Right?


  1. I have great admiration for you putting up all these preserves. It brings back memories of my mom and my grandmother working so hard all summmer and fall pickling, preserving, freezing..... your ketchup sounds wonderful. I find we don't eat the condiments and pickles that we did in our youth. One bottle of ketchup will do us for a couple of months. I do remember the quality and taste of the home produced items being much better than what you buy in the store.

  2. I am SO impressed, and I think it's wonderful you've done this. I'm a humble freezer (the no-blanch, just chop 'em up and freeze type) not a canner which makes me appreciate all the more the time and work this involves.

  3. Wow - you've definitely been a busy bee with all that canning! Your catsup looks great =)


Welcome to the farm! I hope you feel free to comment and share here. I will respond as often as I can.