This morning’s recipe testing with some local Divas came very close on the heels of last night’s Meet Your Meat bison class.  My good friends from Shane Creek Bison Ranch came to town and talked to a fantastically receptive, interested, and interesting group.  They spoke at length about what they have learned about the animals over the past several years, largely from observation.  The fact that they are both brilliant scientists probably has something to do with the fact that they learned fast and on their feet.  It was absolutely fascinating.

In between seriously intelligent questions from the audience and more discussion, we managed to prepare some fantastic food.  I’ll be sharing it with you as the week progresses, but first I must pass along one of the evening’s greatest hits.  Ketchup.  Homemade ketchup.  No, I’m not going all Garrison Keillor on you.  Several people mentioned that it had never crossed their minds to even consider making it themselves.  Others kind of gave me that squinty-eyed sideways look:  “Huh?”  And then they tasted it.  Besides onions, it was all I’d let them put on their bison burgers.  A general note here:  I’m usually a little more accommodating than that when teaching.  You’ve got to try it.  You’ll never go back to the store-bought stuff again.

Full disclosure:  the recipe is not mine.  I discovered it on Food52, where it was posted by a gentleman named Wiley P., a retired aviator and educator, who owns the one border collie that may be more beautiful than Esmé the occasionally perfect dog.


It is said that ketchup was the very first condiment, invented shortly after humanity first learned that flame-cooked meat, while delicious in and of itself, was lacking just a little something. I have read also that ketchup was the very first foodstuff to be made available in a tin can. Strangely, it is also said that it was this availability of canned ketchup that lead to the rift in North Carolina’s barbecue aficionados as canned ketchup was introduced as an ingredient in the sauce (or “dip”) used in the western part of the state. Volumetrically speaking, ketchup is still the most popular condiment. Oh, sure, they say that salsa has taken its place, but alas – they speak of dollars, not ounces. Anyway, here at the ranch we often run short of one supply or another, which can be very inconvenient. It takes an hour and a half to go to town, so we try to make do. We made our first batch of homemade ketchup about 20 years ago. While it wasn’t perfect at first, we loved the fact that we could control the salt level as well as adjust the flavor more for the adult pallet. So if you are expecting this to taste like what you buy at the supermarket, move on to some “copy-cat” recipe instead.

Makes about 30 ounces (enough to fit into an emptied and washed squeeze bottle from brand “H”)

For the ketchup:

  • 24 ounces low-salt tomato sauce (I used all of a 29-ounce can)
  • 1 tablespoon light (golden) brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced or pressed fresh garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoons ground mustard
  • 3/8 teaspoons ground mace
  • 3/8 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cider or malt vinegar

For cocktail sauce, add::

  • 6 tablespoons grated horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. For the smoothest texture (recommended), blend with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processor until smooth. Store in the refrigerator. Keeps in a good, cold refrigerator for 4 weeks and more.

My notes:

1.  Because I wanted to avoid a raw garlic taste, I measure all ingredients into a stainless steel saucepan, whisk them together, and let the mixture come to a simmer for a minute, then set the pan off the heat and let the ketchup cool.

2.  Have you noticed that canned tomato products can vary widely in how sweet or tart they are?  For that reason, I moved the vinegar to last on the list.  I whisk together everything except the vinegar, then taste the mixture.  Last night’s had the perfect balance of sweet/tart without the vinegar.  Let your taste buds be your guide.

3.  I hate, loathe, become nauseous at the very thought of, cloves.  Don’t leave them out.  Don’t leave anything out.  Except perhaps the vinegar.  The whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.

About thesolitarycook

I'm a chef, a cook, a teacher, a reader, a writer, a bike-rider, a dog- and cat-woman
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  1. KwHittenberger says:


  2. At the end of the tomato season, the last couple years, I’ve made ketchup with all the excess tomatoes. My husband LOVES ketchup and swears it’s ruined him for store bought ones now. I hadn’t thought of starting with tomato sauce; what a wonderful idea when not in tomato season. And MUCH less work 🙂

    • We talked a lot last night about using fresh tomatoes and why vinegar might be more important. I’ll pass along your information because several people were asking if it would be possible to preserve it to use during winter, for gifts, etc. Thank you, Susan! And I’m with your husband – I’m ruined on the store stuff.

      • I used fresh tomatoes and vinegar. I’ll post the recipe once tomatoes are out that I made (once I actually FIND it) 🙂 And we use it all winter long. Canning with tomatoes can be a little tricky as you know, but with the vinegar you can get the acid levels you need. It makes a great Christmas gift since it’s red. The bottle can be dressed up to look like Santa, which is fun to do.

      • THANK YOU! I would love it if you would post the recipe for everyone.

  3. I’ve never been a ketchup fan and that was where my barbecue sauce business was born! However when I was a ranch cook many of the folks who worked there decided to take up the Atkins Diet and I made homemade low-carb ketchup. They loved it. My kids think that ketchup is its own food group so I will have to give this a whirl!

    • I have to admit that I kind of think of K as its own food group. I have an idea for a summer travel/writing project that involves ranch kitchens. Long ago and far away I was a ranch cook too. May I get in touch with you with some ideas? If you’d send your email address to me at divastests@gmail.com, I would be very grateful.

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