I spent last weekend visiting my grandparents. Every time we visit, the order of business is much the same—arrive in time for the noon meal, which is always a BBQ plate (North Carolina style pulled pork with vinegar sauce and red slaw) from our favorite local place, then afterwards we may visit a few shops around town or spend the afternoon idling on the couch and catching up on our naps.

For supper, my grandmother empties out everything in her fridge and freezer. EVERYTHING. Not to mention that my grandparents have always had a fruitful garden, so there is plenty of fresh produce on top of that. Its all pure comfort food, at it’s finest.

I attempted to capture the spread with a photo, but it seemed that every time I thought my grandma had finally finished and the table was full, she came back with something else to squeeze into the margins.

Thus, I ended up with a series of photos that goes like this:

Mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, beans, squash casserole, watermelon, slaw, salads, steak, chicken (KFC…don’t hate), dinner roles, freshly sliced tomatoes, fried okra…two different types of pie for dessert. And who knows what else there was that I’ve forgotten. It just kept coming.

(this was a meal for six people.)

If you’re wondering what the brown stuff in the glass bottle in center of the table is, no, its not steak sauce or anything like that. It’s homemade tomato ketchup, and it’s delicious. I put it on my peas. Don’t hate, it tastes nothing like that fire-engine red atrocity you get at the store. I don’t really know how to describe it’s taste…it’s not so sweet, and the flavors of the spices clearly shine through. It’s probably more like a tomato-based BBQ sauce than what many of us grow up thinking of as “ketchup.” Our peas aren’t complete without it, and it’s one of those heritage recipes that I will cherish as long as I’m alive and able to cook.

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Homemade Tomato Catsup

Wash, cut, and cook tomatoes until soft. Strain through a coarse Sieve. Measure, and to every five quarts of juice add:

1 1/2 Pints Vinegar
1TBSP Black Pepper
1 1/2 TBSP Cinnamon and Cloves
1/2 TBSP Mustard
2 1/2 TBSP Salt

Put on fire to boil. After boiling 1/2 hr., add one and two-thirds cups sugar. Cook until thick.

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And there you have it, folks. Homemade Ketchup, simple as that. Feel free to modernize it how you like…I for one would recommend heating it in a pot on a stovetop rather than over open flames 😉

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