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From the garden: How to make your own tomato ketchup from scratch

Tomatoes are a vegetable that can be preserved in many ways – they can be used in jams, jellies, relishes and chutneys, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

WE’VE REACHED THE time of the year when I suddenly realise that the tomato crop is not infinite after all.

There’s still a good month or so left to enjoy them (we’ve had really good years where we’ve been eating fresh toms until mid November), but there’s that definite sense that it’s past its peak now. That means I am getting a little choosier about what to do with them.

Tomatoes are a vegetable that can be preserved in many ways – they can be naturally stored (laid carefully in a drawer for example), frozen or dried; they can be used in jams, jellies, relishes and chutneys. They can be made in to sauces (handy for the freezer for later use in pastas and pizzas), and also bottled and preserved in oil.

So, there’s no excuse really to let tomatoes go to waste, even if you have vast gluts of them. If we are really time-pressed, we simply halve them, lay in a baking tray, drizzle some oil and chopped garlic on top and season well – bake in an oven for about an hour and then push through a sieve and you have a delicious roast tomato sauce.

Alternatively, by cooking them very slowly (about 5-8 hours) upside down on a wire rack over a baking tray in a very low oven you get ‘sundried’ tomatoes – these are particularly good if you have some rather bland tom varieties as it really brings out the best in them. These can then be stored in airtight containers in the fridge or in a jar of oil.

I have to admit, that I find it hard to justify turning good, and increasingly rare toms in to a sauce (no matter how tasty it is) at this time of the year. So, I was skeptical about the idea of using a precious kilo of them to make a tomato ketchup – I mean, ketchup is ketchup isn’t it? Well, actually no it’s not. We used the recipe overleaf to make our first ever batch of home-grown, home-made ketchup and it’s been a revelation to the point that I’ve banned with word ‘ketchup’ for fear of making it seem more ordinary than it is – ultimately this is the most outstanding dipping sauce for your chips that you will ever taste!

Things to do this Week – Keep checking brassicas

Caterpillars are still a massive pest at this time of the year – check brassicas like brussels sprouts, cabbages, purple sprouting broccoli and kohlrabi regularly and remove any eggs or caterpillars that you find. Left unchecked they can quickly destroy a brassica plant. Make sure that if you have netting over the plants, that you keep it raised up off the leaves. The cabbage white butterfly lays eggs on the leaves simply by landing for a split second on the plant – if it can come in contact with the leaf of the plant at all, it has the opportunity to do so.

Recipe of the Week – Tomato Ketchup

I adapted this recipe from the tomato ketchup recipe in ‘The Preserving Book’ by Lynda Brown. It’s very straightforward, and makes 2-3 small jars which will keep for 3 months.


1kg ripe toms, roughly chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
good pinch ground cloves
1 large bay leaf
2 mace blades or teaspoon ground mace
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp whole allspice
150ml red wine vinegar
60g light soft brown sugar


Put all the ingredients except the sugar in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes then remove the lid and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard the mace and bay leaves and puree the liquid in a blender – then rub through a sieve, back in to the rinsed-out pan. Stir in the sugar, bring back to the boil, and boil stirring all the time, for 5 minutes to allow the sauce develop a thick cream-like consistency. Pour in to warm, sterilsed kilner or screw-top jars. Cool, seal and label, and store in a cool, dark place. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within 2 weeks.

Tip of the Week – Ripening Green Tomatoes

A good way to ripen green toms is to place them in a tray and put them in a drawer – next to them place a couple of ripe apples which will generate the ripening gas ethylene which will help them ripen. Ripe tomatoes will keep in the fridge for about a week in a polythene bag.

Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY Ireland.

© GIY Ireland

About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

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