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How Not to Make Ketchup

How Not to Make Ketchup

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I fancy myself as someone who is pretty handy in the kitchen, a man able to smoke a brisket, assemble a tart, craft a Cassoulet or conjure up some ice cream. But one day, one sad summer day, I entered the kitchen overly confident that making ketchup was a breeze. How hard can it be to reduce a spicy sauce rendered from about ten pounds of my finest homegrown tomatoes? Such a question was soon to be answered. After what seemed like 57  ingredients and the same number of steps, a molten sea of soupy bubbling sauce began its journey in a heavy stock pot, evaporating ever closer to its final glory: thick, rich, barely pourable, but totally delectable ketchup.how not to make ketchup

While the watched pot had no trouble boiling, I had trouble remaining focused on stirring its simmering contents. (Oh look, something shiny.) My distraction was fed further when a neighbor stopped by. Unfortunately we both share the gift of gab and what seemed like a few minutes of chitchat morphed into a lengthy catch-up of current island events. As I waved goodbye and stepped back onto my kitchen stoop, a smell that can only be described as scorched sugary tomato sauce melding to the bottom of stainless steel stockpot hit me like a wall.

My dash to the stove was halted as I came upon an eruption of red sauce spewing to the height of the ceiling—each burst leaving a trail of dripping red stalactites. One false move and the authorities would find this beefy meatball fused to the floor, done in by a Mount Vesuvius of splattering Marinara.

Wielding a broomstick to push the pot off the burner, I averted a disaster or rather eclipsed the next phase of this disaster. The cleanup seemed endless, as any and all surfaces in the kitchen took direct hits. Boz and Gracie were all too eager to help, licking up anything found at shin height or on the floor.

What did I learn from this culinary catastrophe?  1.) Be careful with your condiments; and 2.) Some dogs are allergic to tomatoes.


Update: check out How to Make Ketchup.


  1. This confession is like the one I had when I told the facebook world that when, at age 9 and confronted with the question of whether I wanted the dime for Unicef or the piece of candy, I took the candy.

  2. Oh Renae, what little remained had an acrid burnt flavor throughout, and the other half looked like slumped black glass on the bottom of the pan. It required a chisel to remove (seriously). That was my favorite stockpot; and I’m glad to report it’s back in service.

  3. Oh. Oh. OH. What a terrible waste!

    It reminds me of the time that Birch dropped a market bag with apple cider and catsup on the covered front porch. It exploded everywhere. We had to basically repaint and we STILL find little dabs here and there.

    By allergic…what do you mean exactly?

  4. Oh June, Mr. Boz after mopping the floor with his tongue got hives and swollen eyes and major itches. A friend suggested a half pill of Benadryl and that worked to ease the swelling and scratching. As for the hives, he was a polka dot dog for the remainder of the day. Spaghetti and lasagna are off the menu for the Boz!

  5. I love the pictures and really enjoyed seeing you on Halloween. You snuck out of there without letting me give you a big hug. Loved the cake and hope you will post the recipe. By the way , nice Ketchup mess

  6. tom, dear. i did the same thing recently with a beautiful batch of homemade tomato soup. my kitchen was thoroughly speckled, and the pot bottom was so badly burned that it took a good hour and a half of scouring to get off the tomato “glass”. i was using my cocotte and thought i was going to scrape off the porceline coating (but did not) – a friend gently suggested that the burnt flavor might take it to another culinary level – make it better than ever before. it did not. everyone got a bowl of it before it burned…but i did not *boo!*

  7. julie-oh-gee I feel you pain, but had to smile. You are a generous cook to share such limited fare, but will be rewarded no doubt with your dining friends’ future dinner invitations.

  8. bwa-hahahahaha! omg! that is so hilarious! you truly had me laughing out loud! (all except the part about your dog getting sick). thanks for brightening my day!

  9. Oh my god! I laughed (very sympathetically) when I saw this. I’m glad your pooch is ok. Additionally, I’m enjoying your blog SO MUCH! Thank you for sharing your Island adventures 🙂


  10. You actually photographed and wrote about this? You are a braver man than I. But, I gotta love ya for being so darn honest….it happens to all and now the rest of us feel so much better.

  11. Your writing is delightful, Tom! Yours is definitely a fun read! I can hardly wait to see what unique combination of descriptive words you’ll put together next! Case in point…….”Mount Vesuvius of splattering Marinara” and “tomato carnage”. This type of creativity doesn’t come from your average Joe………..also, great use of alliteration throughout! Examples: culinary catastrophe and garden Gaugins (from the slug story). Love it! Keep writing and please put it all in a book! Your writing absolutely makes me smile. 🙂

  12. This made me laugh! I had a similar experience just this weekend. I was making concord grape jam. It seems that once you walk away from the stove, The boiling concoction gets it’s revenge. What a mess!! Purple and sticky, everywhere! I should have taken pictures! Ugh! Luckily, I still had enough jam to can three jars. Not all was lost.

  13. After the fact, was reminded why one should not lift an immersion blender out of the bubbling stuff while it’s still running. Pretty much splatter painted a wall with catsup!


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