Hell's Kitchen Ketchup, Ketchup Kitchen Hell

Were it not for "Mitsubishi" and "blend door", the word "simmer" would be my most hated word of the week.

The good news is, I have a healthy quantity of a tomato product in my refrigerator that tastes remarkably like my memories of the last time I had the ketchup at Hell's Kitchen here in Minneapolis, The bad news is how I got there - the kitchen that looks like an abbatoir, the horrific burns on my face, and all because of that one word. Simmer.

OK, I exaggerate. But sometimes you try a recipe, and sometimes the recipe tries you. The first big problem hit when I was doing my prep, and realized I had only half the required amount of tomato paste on hand. This is because the last four times I was at stores that sold tomato paste, I forgot to buy another can for the fucking ketchup. By the time I discovered this, it was impractical, due to the general in-the-shopness of my car, to go and get some, so the ketchup-making was delayed by another couple of hours.

The rest of the prep was fine, though - the food processor was full of the pureed first third of the ingredients. A bowl on the counter was full of the second third, less 1/3 cup of tomato paste. And a bundle of cheesecloth was full of the strange and exotic spices that make Hell's Kitchen's ketchup what it is - a jar of awesome.

So, "simmer". In context, "bring just to a simmer, stirring frequently". And where do you do this? "in the top of a double boiler over simmering water". OK, that's all the fair use I can get away with.

Now, I don't have a double boiler per se. I figure I don't need one. I have a medium saucepan. I have large stainless steel bowls. I know how to set things atop each other. No factory-made double boiler necessary, right? Well, I'll tell you something. After 35-40 minutes over simmering water, the tomato mixture had reached a temperature of 170 degrees, which is not a simmer. Moreover, when the heat was cranked up and the mixture sat over furiously boiling water for another five minutes... 170 degrees. Covered the bowl, another few minutes... 170 degrees.

I have two suspicions. The first is that my improvised double boiler, in my kitchen environment, was only capable of transferring a certain amount of heat to the ketchup. Losses from the sides of the bowl, etc. were insurmountable. Second, I'm thinking that Hell's Kitchen uses canned tomatoes with a much higher water content than the ones I buy. Because I was attempting to simmer and reduce by 20% a mixture that was already, for all practical intents and purposes, the thickness and consistency of ketchup.

In addition to the reduction, the two hour cooking time is meant to infuse the flavors from the bouquet garnis into the ketchup. So, I improvised. First, I moved the ketchup into a saucepan, eliminating the double boiler, and carefully brought it to a simmer. But you can't fucking simmer a tomato mixture that thick. All you can do is watch as steam forms giant bubbles under the surface, which then explode through the top and spray the kitchen, and you, with fucking tomato lava. After I nearly got blinded in my right eye, I decided that spending two hours constantly stirring explosive tomato lava was an awful idea.

So what I ended up doing was putting the heat to it, stirring it vigorously to prevent the worst explosions, while it came up to a simmering temperature. Then I shut the heat off, covered the pot, and let it sit. I repeated this every 20 minutes for two hours, which, thank fuck, got me where I needed to go. Well, almost. My bouquet garnis leaked.

Turns out there were four whole peppercorns and three whole cloves that had escaped the cheesecloth into the final ketchup. The final ketchup which needed to be pureed in a food processor again to finish it. I didn't know the final count, of course. I just found one peppercorn and suspected there were more. Luckily, I had a pair of working eyeballs that were neither 20/40 nor had mild contrast issues on hand to find the rest.

So, by about 10:15 p.m., at long last, I had ketchup. And it is good ketchup. Of course, I also have dried tomato product over roughly 30% of my stove, plus the whole food processor, one bowl, one pot, and about 10 utensils. Clearly, when I make this again, I will be skipping all the failed steps and going straight to the burner / steeping method.

Now I need some goddamned fries.



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Oh dear

Well, I hope it was worth it!


Lunch included a quick sweet potato oven fry/roast in bacon fat for to dip in the ketchup.
It was worth it. Or, at least, it's easy to say that now that everything's been cleaned.

Fair Use

For the record, a list of ingredients and bare bones cooking instructions are factual, and thus, not protected by copyright.  Fair Use does not even enter into it.  (note that this is true (and not just a justification for you to post the recipe so I can try it), but should not be counted on for legal advice, etc., etc.  )


I meant "fair use" more colloquially than literally, but yeah, recipes are in a weird grey area. I'm sort of playing it by ear - but I'm keeping a higher standard for recipes that aren't freely available on the Internet.

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