One Of These Ketchups Is Not Like The Others

Which of these tomato ketchup brands has chef Glenys Morgan seeing red: Heinz, President’s Choice or Western Family?

Three Ketchup Bottles

We wondered if centuries ago, somewhere in Asia, an exasperated cook uttered the famous words, Do you have to put that stuff on everything? The original ketsiap was a tangy, sticky concoction made with anchovies, walnuts, mushrooms and beans; the mixture is a kissing cousin to today’s Worcestershire sauce. It wasn’t until the 1700s that tomatoes were added to the mix, and later still, in the 1800s, that Henry J. Heinz bottled his tomato version using a recipe that remains unchanged.

Bottled ketchup is the most popular condiment in North American households, and the Heinz variety is the one most of us are familiar with. Still, of the three ketchups my crew (which included a few pint-sized ketchup pros) and I tasted, we preferred President’s Choice for its very “tomatoey” tomato freshness. That’s not to say Heinz isn’t the top dog for nothing. Heinz has a definite BBQ sauce nuance, so it’s not hard to see why a plain, grilled burger gets a boost from this perennial favourite.

For me, ketchup is usually the foundation ingredient (like hoisin in Asia) for building endless variation of grilling sauces over the summer, so the President’s Choice fresh tomato taste was, as they say in wine tasting, bright and clean. Oh yes, and the kids voted it mo’ better.

Heinz Tomato Ketchup costs $6.35 for 1.5 litres and $5.28 for one litre at Safeway in English Bay; President’s Choice Tomato Ketchup costs $3.29 for 1.5 litres and $2.59 for one litre at Extra Foods in West Vancouver; Western Family Tomato Ketchup costs $4.99 for 1.5 litres and $3.89 for one litre at Save-On-Foods in North Vancouver.

For An Alternative To Bottled, Make Homemade Ketchup

Many store-bought ketchups are thickened with corn syrup, so forget the additives and get creative. Add a pinch of cinnamon or a touch of clove; add roasted garlic or a minced chipotle chile with all its smoky goodness. Even tangy molasses or a splash of balsamic vinegar could be your signature touch.

1 28-oz jar Italian tomato passata (puréed tomatoes) see NOTE
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt

Cook onion in oil in a heavy 4-quart saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add tomato purée, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar and salt. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until very thick, about 1 hour (stir more frequently toward end of cooking to prevent scorching). Purée ketchup in 2 batches in blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Chill, covered, at least 2 hours (for flavours to develop).

NOTE: Alternatively purée canned tomatoes in a blender until smooth.  “Passata” is available canned.

Photo: C. Phaisalakani

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