This tomato sauce is amazing. When I made this specific batch, I actually paired it with buffalo meatballs, but it’s also amazing on burgers, hot dogs, and french fries. What it doesn’t work well with is as the base for bbq sauce. That one still works best with Heinz, sadly. One of these days I’ll get around to making that completely from scratch, but today is not that day. What today is, though, is a great day to grill up some hamburgers and put this ketchup on them.
First, heat some oil and cloves in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until the oil begins to bubble. Cook 5 more minutes, turn off heat, cover, and let steep 5 more minutes. Strain oil with a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl, and discard cloves.
While the cloves steep, heat up a second saucepan (or stockpot, really anything works here) over medium heat. Start by putting in your largest spices… the peppercorns, cinnamon stick, and allspice berries. After two minutes, put in the mustard seed. Toast for one more minute, or until the spices have started smelling fragrant but before they start to smoke (at which point they’ve burned), and pour them off onto a cool plate or bowl to stop their cooking.
Put all the toasted spices plus bay leaf in a spice bag, or tie them up in a small piece of cheesecloth. You can leave 5 inches of extra twine on one end so it’s easy to tie to a handle of your stockpot to retrieve later, but I usually just fish it out of the pot with a slotted spoon anyway. Yes, this photo is pre-toasting, but it just looks so organized, I had to include it.
Next, return the clove oil to the saucepan and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened, 5-7 minutes.
Next, add in the garlic, tomato paste, and cayenne, and cook until fragrant, another minute or so. Then transfer to a blender, add tomatoes, and process (in batches, if necessary), being careful to leave room for the steam to escape. If you don’t, you’ll end up covering you and your entire kitchen in scalding red liquid. I’ve done that (just so you don’t have to!), and trust me, you’d rather avoid it.
Return tomato to the stockpot, and add in brown sugar, vinegar, and salt. Put in spice bag, securing twine to a handle if desired. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 2 hours, until mixture is a deep, dark red and reduced to about 4 cups of liquid.
Remove ketchup and strain through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl, pressing on the solids. Let ketchup cool and season with salt and pepper to taste. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Spicy Tomato Ketchup
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 cinnamon stick broken in half
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 can tomato paste 6 ounce
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cans whole peeled tomatoes 28-oz
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- salt and pepper
Heat oil and cloves in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until oil begins to bubble. Cook 5 minutes, then turn off heat, cover, and steep for an additional 5 minutes.Strain oil through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl and discard the cloves.
While the cloves steep, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add peppercorns, allspice berries, and cinnamon stick. Cook for 2 minutes, shaking skillet occasionally to roll spices so they toast evenly. Add the mustard seeds, and cook for 1 more minute, or until the spices are fragrant but before any start to smoke.. Transfer to a cool bowl or plate to halt the cooking process.
Bundle the toasted spices along with the bay leaves in a spice bag or small piece of cheesecloth tied with twine. If desired, leave 5 inches of twine on one end to tie to the stockpot handle.
Return the strained clove oil to the saucepan and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and cook until softened and translucent, 5-7 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 1 more minute.
Transfer to blender and add the tomatoes. Process (in batches, if need be), making sure to allow the steam to vent, until smooth, about 30 seconds.
Return the tomato mixture to the saucepan, stir in the brown sugar, vinegar, and 1 1/2 teaspoon salt. Drop in spice bag and secure twine to pot handle, and submerge spice bag in tomato mixture.
Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is dark-red and reduced to 4 cups, about 2 hours.
Remove spice bag and strain ketchup through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl, pressing on the solids. Let ketchup cool to room temperature, season to taste with salt and pepper, and pour into jars or plastic squeeze bottles and refrigerate. Keeps for up to 1 month.