Thursday’s Dish: Healthier Ketchup

I’ve wanted to learn to make my own ketchup for a long time, and really should have done it before now when I think how much of it my child has consumed in her short six years on this earth. Buckets, probably. And with the confusing information about high fructose corn syrup (Is it evil or not? But wait, now it’s called “corn sugar” – all I know is that it’s highly processed, and we’re trying to stay away from highly processed, so a good enough reason to avoid it.), it’s probably prudent to ax the main place she gets it. So when I saw online that a local place was offering a Healthy Condiments class where I would not only learn how to make ketchup, but mustard, salsa and Marsala mushroom sauce as well, I signed right up!

Austin Healthy Cooking is at 2013 Wells Branch Parkway, Suite 119, in the back of an unassuming strip center (with a great Thai and sushi restaurant, Chon Som, in the front of the center – try the green curry!). Chef Roy Marshall is the proprietor and teacher. The backbone of his business is pasta – he makes 25+ kinds of flavored whole wheat pasta at the store, in a kitchen in the back. He sells his Gourmet Texas Pasta every weekend at places like Barton Creek Farmers Market, New Braunfels Trade Days, Gruene Market Days, Georgetown Market Days, etc., but also sells it online and out of the store.

The store sells equipment like top end blenders, juicers and pressure cookers, the things Chef Roy uses to make healthy foods. He learned at a young age, growing up in a Mormon community in Arizona, to grind flour and make bread and can foods. He honed his skills at Le Cordon Bleu culinary academy in Scottsdale and in French restaurants in Phoenix. At the store, Chef Roy also grinds flours and has many to choose from, even gluten-free choices like chickpea flour. But Chef Roy’s passion is teaching people. He’s on a mission to help people learn healthy cooking techniques so they can cook from whole foods and get additives and preservatives out of their diets.

At the Healthy Condiments class, we sit on stools at a prep table in the casual teaching kitchen at the front of the store. Several of the other women there had been at the store the previous night for a “Smoking on the Stovetop” class and were back for more. Chef Roy’s classes are hands-on, so the first thing he had us do was slice mushrooms, chop onions, and cut potatoes into wedges for home fries (with which to test the finished ketchup, naturally).

As he cooks, Chef Roy explains what he’s doing and talks knowledgably about food chemistry and the canning process, the dangers of food additives, and his love of spices. He has pots simmering on every burner and checks each in its turn. For the ketchup (see full recipe below), he starts with apple cider vinegar in a large pot to which he added whole spices. These simmer while we talk, then he adds organic cane juice and tomato puree and puts it all into his amazingly good blender (which he sells) and blends everything in batches, until even the cinnamon stick and allspice berries are pulverized.

When making the Marsala mushroom sauce, he thickens it with tapioca flour, which he jokingly refers to as “magic dust.” He uses it for thickening because he likes that it’s less processed than cornstarch, but doesn’t break down in heat like arrowroot. Try it in your Thanksgiving gravy – Chef Roy sells it at the store.

The easy camaraderie of the women and Chef Roy’s laid-back style make for a pleasant evening. All that’s missing is the wine, which my fellow students say they brought to the previous evening’s class. Chef Roy says people often come with several friends and wine to enjoy learning some new skills. Also, there’s dinner! After we’ve learned to make beer mustard, wine mustard, chipotle salsa, ketchup and Marsala mushroom sauce, all canned at safe temperatures for us to take home, the chef makes us some of his Wild Mushroom Linguine with the Marsala mushroom sauce, a sautéed chicken breast with mustard sauce, and we try out the ketchup on those oven-baked home fries we prepared earlier. Yum!

I leave full and happy, with a box full of canned goods and having learned a lot. My mustards need a few weeks to mellow in their jars, but we enjoyed the salsa and ketchup that week. And what did my ketchup-loving child think of it? Well, it wasn’t sweet or salty enough for her. If you’ll notice in the recipe below, Chef Roy doesn’t cook with salt. My husband and I liked it, and because of all the other flavors, we didn’t miss the salt. However, I did go looking for another ketchup recipe for my little naysayer, which I’ve also included below, a super-easy slow cooker version from “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook” by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. That’s okay, more of the good stuff for me!

Chef Roy has classes every week, some of them free and others only $20. He really wants to spread the word and get people in the door to learn about cooking with whole foods. I urge you to check out some of his classes and products. Coming up in November are Basic Bread: Whole Wheat Goodness We Make Into Some Fun Stuff (tonight, 6 p.m., free!), Chef Roy, You’re Doing WHAT to a chicken?! (Tues., Nov. 23, 6 p.m., free!), and Not Your Usual Tamale (Sat., Nov. 27, 2-6 p.m. and Tues., Nov. 30, 6-10 p.m., $20). Check for upcoming class schedules on the website.

Chef Roy’s Ketchup
3 cups apple cider vinegar
10 cloves
10 garlic cloves
1 small onion, chopped
1-inch piece of cinnamon stick
10 allspice berries
2 cups organic evaporated cane juice (or 1 cup cane juice and 1 cup honey)
3 cans (28 ounces each) tomato pureeAdvertisement
In large saucepan, bring cider vinegar to a simmer with cloves, garlic, onion, cinnamon and allspice. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add cane juice (or cane juice and honey). Remove from heat and add 1 can of tomato puree. Blend all (including whole spices) in a high-powered blender or food processor and return to pan. Add 2 more cans of puree and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly to prevent sticking. When at 205 degrees, pack into jars and seal.

Quick and Easy Tomato Ketchup
1 can (28 ounces) tomato puree
1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, such as Coleman’s
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper flakes
Sea salt to taste
A few grinds of black pepper

In a food processor, combine the tomato puree, onion and shallot and process until just smooth. Add the vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, allspice, cinnamon, mace, ginger, cloves and pepper flakes and pulse to combine. Pour the tomato mixture into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove the lid and continue to cook the ketchup on HIGH, stirring a few times, until the mixture has thickened to the desired consistency, 30 minutes to 1 hour. You want it to be able to plop off a spoon. Season with salt and pepper.

Turn off the cooker and let the ketchup cool to room temperature in the crock. Scrape with a rubber spatula into a clean spring-top glass jar (or use a screw top and new lid). Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Makes about 3 1/4 cups.

Written by: Shannon Oelrich

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