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So when are they gonna start making heirloom ketchup?

It seems like foodies have reached every corner of the food world...except ketchup. Grey poupon gave mustard that air of elegance, but so far ketchup has failed to achieve such status of "luxury" and has remained "kid sauce". They've tried organics and rustics, but end up only making tomato sauce...nothing truly touches the real recipe.

But I've never seen tomato ketchup made from REAL tomatoes. I'm talking about some green zebra ketchup, purple cherokee ketchup, or even dry farmed early girl ketchup. Let's go crazy. Why hasn't anybody touched on heirloom tomatoes or any other tomato for ketchup?

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  1. Just a guess, but heirloom tomatoes are difficult to grow and don't produce much fruit. Since lots and lots of tomatoes are needed to cook down into ketchup, the result would be quite expensive. Ketchup is pretty much a kid-food and I don't think many people would want to spend a lot for it. I'm happy enough with Trader Joe's organic ketchup for the three or four times a year I use it. On the other hand, why don't you make some purple cherokee ketchup and see how it tastes? Might be great. I can see it making an interesting holiday gift.

    1. I must admit that I would not want to take my heirloom tomatoes and boil them down into a sauce. I would much rather eat them fresh and enjoy them in their natural state. I'm not sure how much you would add to ketchup by making it with heirloom tomatoes. At any rate, I'm not sure I would notice a vast improvement.

      I do however, think that a green zebra ketchup would be an awesome colour! Would be nice for a change.

      1 Reply
      1. re: moh

        I agree - most of the tomatos mentioned in this post are low producers and are better suited for other purposes - like eating raw!

        But I would cook down a bunch of garden grown roma tomatos into a ketchup. I would be more interested in experimenting with the other ingredients. I've tasted some really interesting home-made ketchups.

      2. Not all ketchups were tomato based.
        Somewhere I have a walnut based ketchup (and walnuts are plentiful in these parts)

        I totally agree with the productivity of plants of some of the Heirloom maters; maybe if one cultivar were to grow really, really well in one county, there would be a niche.
        But, this is the biggie, I don't think that the heirloom flavors could compete with the basic subtle tomato flavors of some of the heirlooms.

        1. I've seen artisan ketchups on the market before. Not sure if they are heirloom tomato, but they are definitely a step up from Heinz. Which, by the way, I absolutely love, especially the organic, with no hfcs.....

          1. I'd like to see some sun-dried tomato ketchup. Anyone ever make that?

            1 Reply
            1. I think one could make a damned tasty ketchup using roasted Juliets. They're so sweet, you wouldn't need to add sugar, just a few spices.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pikawicca

                I've heard some people say that Green Grape tomatoes make a very good ketchup (Not zebra they're too watery for cooking down into ketchup) most "processed" tomato products tend to start with plum types so green sausage might be an even better choice.

                One other caveat speaking from experiance of using heirlooms to make tomato sauce, the colors ain't nearly as pretty as you'd think looking at the tomatoes. When heated most of the tomato colorants break down. Blacks and purples wind up about the same shade of red orange you'd get from normal red tomato sauce as do Pinks . Yellows and oranges too though they wind up a tad lighter. Whites turn a sort of yellow. Greens are actually visually the worst, they wind up an ugly olive khaki (thing pesto or guacamole left out in the open air overnight color)

              2. To turn your question around a bit, think heirloom ketchup (as you said) rather than ketchup made from heirloom tomatoes. Ketchup, when it originated in SE Asia and China, was not made from tomatoes at all. It was a fish sauce; the closest thing readily available today, in the US anyway, is probably Worcestershire sauce. You can also try ketjap manis, the Indonesian sauce, often found in Asian stores; the name says it all--and it has no tomatoes. Other western ketchups have been made with mushrooms, walnuts, oysters, grapes, and many other substances as a base. Those kinds of things would truly be "heirloom" ketchup. Tomato based ketchups didn't appear until around 1800, and presumably were made with heirloom tomatoes [ :-) ]. Today of course tomato ketchup is synonymous with ketchup, to the point that only tomato based ketchup can legally be labeled as ketchup (standard of identity). Too bad--we have lost our really heirloom ketchups.

                2 Replies
                1. re: johnb

                  I wouln't hold my breath for a return of those "heirlooms" any time soon though, at least not commercially in this country. Part of the reason the tomato based one became so ubiquitous and got that exclusive labeling was that (around 1900 it think) the US banned the commercial sale of fermented ketchups (which most of the "old recipies" were") As far as I know that ban still stands.

                  1. re: jumpingmonk

                    There were fermented ketchups at that time as well. I think the other types could just as easily be made commercially without fermentation.

                    If one is really interested in the subject, this book is fascinating. You can read nearly all of it on your computer. Chapter 4 has a history of the legislative battles around the turn of the century: