When I told the boys one of the ingredients in their beloved ketchup was corn they looked at me like I had three heads. Then I hit them with another whammy; ketchup is also made from tomatoes. Wow, were they shocked!
Of course the corn in ketchup is not literally kernels of corn. It’s in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is a derivative of highly processed corn starch. The reason food companies use HFCS is simple economics. It’s cheaper than sugar and it acts as a preservative which means products can stay on supermarket shelves a LONG LONG time without spoilage. And we’re talking years for some products, especially condiments. Kind of scary when you think about it…
Why is this such a bad thing and why should we care? In a nutshell, HFSC has been proven to be directly linked to the worldwide obesity epidemic. And it’s in almost everything we eat. From the obvious: cookies, fruit snacks, fast food, juice, to the not so obvious: yogurt, salad dressings, crackers, lunch meat, spaghetti sauce, and even many cough syrups.
The documentary “Fed Up” (produced by Laurie David), just out in theaters, tackles this issue head on. If you have kids and haven’t been to a movie in the past five years that’s not animated (guilty!) there are countless books on the subject. Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan are two of the most comprehensive in my opinion.
This week we decided to make our own ketchup and see if it measured up to the “real” thing. We don’t aim to solve the world’s problems here in our little kitchen but I do want my kids to know that food does not grow in colorful plastic pouches. And I welcome any excuse to get them in the kitchen – even if they don’t always eat what we’re cooking up!
1 28oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
½ cup distilled white vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp salt
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp fresh corn (optional)
Add all ingredients to a large saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat slightly to a simmer. As tomatoes are simmering, stir occasionally and break down the tomatoes with the back of mixing spoon as they cook down and soften. Cook until reduced by half and color deepens to a dark red, about 75-90 minutes.
Once the mixture is reduced, transfer to a food processor to smooth out texture. Transfer ketchup to a fine mesh sieve while it is cooling to drain any excess liquid.
Store in glass container and keep refrigerated. Shelf life: about 2 weeks.
And the VERDICT is:
Matthew (age 6): “Doesn’t taste 100% like real ketchup”
Liam (age 5): “ I don’t like the ketchup we made”
Dylan (age 5): “It’s really really really almost like real ketchup”
This recipe did not go over as planned, it just couldn’t compete with the “real” thing. After a unanimous vote, we decided it would make an awesome pizza sauce instead!