Posted by: A Part of the Solution | August 29, 2010

Antique Catsup

The cookbook was published in the first years of the 20th century. Perhaps you know it, or of it: Marion Harland’s Complete Cook Book, Bobbs-Merrill (the people who brought us the Joy of Cooking). The style, processing and volume of food in the recipe speaks to its roots in the 19th century. I find the firm chinned authoress (get a load of that frontspiece) and her recipe selection to be irresistable. Her antique catsup recipes are particularly charming. There’s one for currant catsup, and one for green walnut catsup,  one for grape, for mushroom–and yes, even tomato catsup.

Some of these recipes rely on brining to intensify the flavor of their primary ingredient, like the walnut and mushroom catsups. Most rely on long, slow cooking to bring out the Maillard reaction in those products and make their umami as focused as possible. For the first time in my life, I wish I had a Fannie Farmer of yore on hand to check it for early catsup renditions. In general, I find Ms. Harland’s recipes to be representative of their kind–and she gives variations on most foods included in her cook book.

I’ll be adjusting this recipe, but I want to give it here in its original propportions before I move on to braver, newer versions of homemade catsup. This version is strong in cloves, and it could use more paprika than it has. I wonder if it needs a shot of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce to bring it into line. These are all lines of inquiry I intend to pursue as the tomato season wears on–and for years to come if necessary.

Antique Catsup

1 peck ripe tomatoes (13.25 pounds), seeded and sliced

6 white onions (2-2.5 lbs), chopped

3 bay leaves

1 TBSP ground mace (I used freshly grated nutmeg to no ill effect, since it was what I had on hand)

1 TBSP freshly ground black pepper

1 TBSP ground cloves, now adjusted to 1 tsp-1 1/2 tsp, to taste

1 TBSP sugar, I omit this since field ripe tomatoes are sweet enough

1 TBSP salt

1 tsp paprika, I like the smoked stuff, but use what you have

1 TBSP celery seed in a fine mesh tea ball or tied in layers of cheesecloth

1 cup apple cider vinegar

Cook the tomatoes and the onions together for several hours over a low heat in a heavy bottomed wide-mouthed pan, enough to get them bubbling but not enough to boil or burn. Using a food mill, or a mesh seive, push the tomato mixture through to remove skins and residual seeds. Don’t worry about the onions–their flavor’s in the tomatoes now.

Return the tomato mixture to the heavy bottomed pan, and add all the spices, sugar and salt. Let this come to the low bubble at which it formerly was. Mine took about fourteen hours, gently lowering the heat as the product shrank in the pan. When you have about a quarter to a third of what you started with, and it seems thick to you, add the vinegar and return the pan to the heat. Let it boil for fifteen minutes. When it’s cool you can store it in the fridge, or using ice cube trays freeze it in small batches to be defrosted as needed. This will also store well with simple water-bath canning.

Test the temperatures on your crockpot to see if it could handle the job without burning your catsup.



  1. That looks a lot like the catsup my dad made every year when I was a kid. I think his might have had a bit of molassas in it.

  2. Call me when you have a ketchup recipe.

    • Will do

  3. […] present version of hash browns is delicious by itself. MAP likes it even better with my Antique Catsup on it. I have to say, the clove volume in the catsup has calmed down enough that I like the product […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: