Back in February I sampled an astounding fermented ketchup at the PASA conference. Although I was told by the woman who made it that she was willing to share the recipe, she never came through. So I've been left to my own devices to experiment as I see fit. The only thing I know for sure about that mind-blowing ketchup was that it contained smoked chili peppers. That's probably half the reason I loved it so much. Smoked foods are some of my favorites.
So, I'm going to play around with lacto-fermented ketchup. After all, I'm pretty DIY oriented, and professional culinary training ought to qualify me to perfect my own ketchup recipe. Actually, recipe development is exciting enough that I'm sort of glad I wasn't given a recipe. Below are a double handful of variables I came up with after reading a few different recipes online and asking what sounded good to me. Perhaps some of you would like to run your own experiments concurrently, and share the results either on your own blogs or in the comments section here. Of course, in developing this recipe, we'll be relying on our own infallible but entirely subjective taste buds to produce something we like. You might prefer something else. So experimenting for yourself would be the best option for everyone.
Lacto-fermented ketchup - recipe development variables
tomato - roasted? simmered/reduced? concassé?
minced onion vs. scallion vs. shallot
ratio of tomato to onion?
tomato paste - yes/no?
smoked chili pepper - ancho vs. chipotle vs. others
cumin vs. allspice vs. both
white pepper vs. black pepper
molasses vs. maple syrup vs. no sweetener added
fish sauce - yes/no?
garlic - yes/no, roasted vs. raw, how much?
vinegar - balsamic, cider, none?
salt - how much?
Given these multiple variables, I estimate that I'll make upwards of 28 different batches of ketchup to find what we like best, just within these parameters. Obviously, they'll be small batches. The one constant in this recipe testing process will be the use of yogurt "juice" from live culture yogurt for the inoculant. That's the liquid that shows up when you take a scoop of yogurt out of the container, leaving a little well. The best I can do there is organic store bought yogurt. I may eventually be able to track down a supply of local raw whey from a goat dairy. If so, I may try working with that instead.
The basic method for the recipe is to combine all ingredients and let them sit in a covered jar at room temperature for a few days, then refrigerate. I can't really be sure, but I suspect that the ketchup I had in February had been happily fermenting away since late summer. Lacto-fermentation is an active and evolving process. So it's possible that the depth of flavor I found in that sample was a product of aging, like you'd see in fine cheese. It may be that my recipe testing will fail to produce anything remotely like what I tasted, unless I allow my ketchup to hang out for several months. All I can do is run my trials and see what combinations appeal most to us, and then see what the aging process contributes.
I've started with this process well ahead of our own tomato harvest, so that when the absolute best tomatoes are available, I'll have a pretty good idea of what I want to do with them. Of course, this means buying local hothouse tomatoes. These are not great tomatoes, by any stretch of the imagination. I don't usually bother buying any sort of fresh tomatoes, at any time of year. But in the interest of developing this recipe, and maximizing the value of my own crop this summer, I'll make that sacrifice. As proper tomato season approaches, the quality of tomatoes available should only improve. So I'll have to remind myself that some of the quality that develops in the ketchup batches is due to better tomatoes rather than my own skill.
The first batch is to test the method of preparing the tomatoes themselves, while holding all other ingredients constant. I expect the ways of dealing with the tomatoes will have slight effects on taste and texture. Concaséed tomatoes are certainly the simplest, lowest-energy, and closest to raw of the three methods I'm trialing. So I'd prefer it if that one produced the best flavor. Sampling the batches in the pre-fermented state showed that even very mediocre tomatoes can taste pretty good after all the other ingredients are added. Now the lacto-bacillus get to work their magic.
Will keep you posted. In the meantime, if you have a favored ketchup recipe, especially if it's lacto-fermented, please share!
I live on a 2/3 acre homestead in a residential neighborhood. A major goal is to demonstrate how much food a non-expert can produce in my particular climate and hardiness zone, with the soils native to my immediate area. We have gardens of annual and perennial plants, keep laying hens and honey bees, and regularly bite off more than we can chew. Another major goal is to pay off our mortgage as fast as possible. Here I blog about frugality, self-reliance, gardening, cooking and baking, food preservation, practical skills, half-baked experiments, and preparing to thrive in a lower-energy future.