What To Do with All Those Tomatoes? Make Homemade Ketchup!


I am swimming in red tomatoes right now.

Not literally, of course, but my tomato plants are knocking out ripe tomatoes like there is no tomorrow!

In a less hot and dry summer, I’m usually discovering the first blush of red about now but not this year. While we’ve been selling lots at the farmers’ market, I still have lots of surplus tomatoes which is just fine by me! I love canning salsa, spaghetti sauce, and soup base for yummy dinners through the winter.

But with the abundance I have this year, I’ve explored some additional options for using the tomatoes. One of those options is homemade ketchup.

I usually coupon for commercially-made ketchup when I can get it free or for less than 75 cents. But the idea of homemade, preservative-free ketchup from our own organic tomatoes sounded too good to pass up! There are hundreds of different recipes for homemade ketchup but I relied on my good old “Ball Blue Book” for this recipe.

My first step was to peel the skins off the tomatoes. This is an easy job when you put the tomatoes into boiling water and then run cold water over them. This method of peeling is quick since the skins just slide right off. Once that was done, I put the tomatoes, onions, and garlic in a pot and cook them until soft.

Tomatoes, garlic, and onion, ready to be turned into homemade ketchup.

The next step is my favorite….pressing the mixture through a sieve. It’s so fun to crush up the tomatoes and watch the pulp come oozing out the sides of the sieve. I also love using my sieve because it belonged to my grandmother and I love thinking about all the things she used to make with the sieve.

Once I had the pulp, I just cooked it until it was thick and had reduced itself by half. After about an hour I added spices, sugar, a touch of salt, and lots of paprika. This step created a wonderful smelling concoction which made my skeptical mind think there was a chance that the homemade version of ketchup may be just as good as the store bought stuff…maybe even better!

Finally, I added the vinegar which really brought out the ketchup smell and taste that seemed familiar. I let the mixture cook down until it was thick and bubbly. Once this step was done, I ladled everything into canning jars and processed them in a hot water bath to seal them. I ended up with four pints of ketchup.

Pressing the tomatoes, onions, and garlic through a sieve.

Taste wise, I found it fresh and full of flavor. It was missing the metallic zing that I always taste in commercial brands. This homemade condiment had various levels of flavor…the garlic, the vinegar, the celery seed, and paprika. It was smooth, bright, and very palatable.

But the real test came when the kids got home from school…my youngest was surprised that it tasted just like “the real stuff”! My older two sons gave me a big, sincere “Mmmmm!” which I assumed meant it was tasty and they’d be slathering it over their burgers.

Honestly though, the biggest test came when my husband tried it. See, he is a lifelong ketchup hater. How it happened is a long, twisted story of a big brother influencing a younger brother and mentally brainwashing him into hating ketchup. That’s brotherly love at its best!

Jon tested my ketchup but I didn’t have much hope that it would win him over. But after a few licks, a couple smacks and another taste, he declared (drum roll please), “Wow, I actually may start eating ketchup if it’s this stuff.” That’s an earth-shattering comment in our household!

So, I’ll be picking more ripe tomatoes this week and turning them into this fresh, tasty, and all-natural homemade ketchup! I’m glad that I had an abundance of tomatoes this year so I could try out this recipe.

Erin Turner's delicious, all-natural homemade ketchup.

It was not complicated, difficult, or even time-consuming. It would be a good recipe to try if you are just learning how to can.

While my kids are anxious to try it on hamburgers and home fries, I am looking forward to using it on top of meatloaf. I think it will add a wonderful richness to the meat. It will be fun to find other ways to use it, too.

I highly recommend using your own surplus of tomatoes to make homemade ketchup this fall. You won’t be disappointed!

And hey, you may even win over a professed “ketchup-hater”!


Erin Turner’s All-Natural Homemade Ketchup Recipe

  • 4 quarts chopped, peeled, and cored tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup chopped red sweet pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp whole allspice
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1-2 Tbsp paprika (depending on your preference)
  • 1 1/2 cups vinegar

Cook tomatoes, onion, garlic, and pepper until soft. Press through a food mill or sieve. Cook pulp rapidly until thick and reduced by one-half, about an hour. Tie whole spices in a spice bag. Add spice bag, sugar, salt, and paprika to tomato mixture. Cook gently about 25 minutes, stirring frequently. Add vinegar; cook until thick. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Remove spice bag. Ladle hot ketchup into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.


Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, and sticking to a budget in her blog archive. And be sure to check out the Missoula Save it Club.


Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.

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