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In the United States, we pass the ketchup to the tune of over half a billion bottles every year. The modern word “ketchup” comes from a Chinese word ke-tsiap — a naturally pickled fish-brine, the universal condiment of the ancient world. The English added foods like mushrooms, walnuts, cucumbers and oysters to this, and it was still a naturally fermented brew.

Organic KetchupSince most ancient times, lactic acid has been used to keep the intestines functioning efficiently, and different types of lacto-fermented juices were often the only remedy against infectious diseases. In her Nourishing Traditions cookbook, author Sally Fallon credits Annelies Schöneck for recent research which has confirmed that the beneficial action of lactic acid bacteria creates an environment where pathogens cannot multiply. The bacteriological flora of the gut varies from one part to the next, but the lactic-acid-producing type survives from the stomach all the way through to the colon; they prevent the growth of coliform bacteria and cholera from establishing themselves. Even certain carcinogenic substances are inhibited and inactivated … In effect, the state of our intestinal flora contributes not only to the absorption of nutrients but also to our ability to resist infections.

Tomatoes from Mexico were added to make the bottled tomato sauce we know as ketchup or catsup today — the chief ingredient of this modern version, after tomatoes, is high fructose corn syrup (hfcs). Ketchup is one of the best examples I know of a condiment that used to be a naturally fermented and health-giving sauce whose benefits were lost with large scale canning methods and a reliance on sugar as a preservative instead of lactic acid.

Ketchup is one of the easiest of all naturally fermented foods to make and keep in your own kitchen. I made my first batch ever a few weeks ago, and it truly takes common ketchup as previously known to a whole new level.

Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions has the perfect recipe on page 104:

Organic Ketchup Recipe

3 cups canned, organic tomato paste
¼ cup whey (liquid from plain yogurt)
1 Tbls sea salt
½ cup maple syrup
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
3 cloves peeled & mashed garlic
½ cup fish sauce fish sauce (find in most any market)

Just mix together in a wide-mouth glass jar, leave at least an inch below the top and leave it at room temperature for 2-3 days before putting into the refrigerator.

Recipe makes a whole quart.

Don’t wait as long as I did to try your hand at making it. I’m never buying commercial bottled stuff again, and you won’t either!

Contributing Author Lynn Cameron owns the AromaVital.com website and has conducted her own research into the complementary health field since the early seventies.

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15 Comments for "How to make organic ketchup"

  1. Diane Vigil

    Well, Lynn was kind enough to send us some of her organic ketchup … and I must say it’s delicious. Thanks, Lynn!

  2. Lynn Cameron

    Oh, Diane, you are very welcome. I’m glad you like it. It’s good with all the stuff you’d use regular ketchup for besides whatever you’d be putting a much more costly condiment on. A BIG plus, though, is that fact that it is ‘naturally fermented’ and contains active, living digestive munchkins (lactobacillus bacteria) like yogurt or other unprocessed cultured/pickled foods do. This benefit, plus the acidity of the tomato paste, is also what keeps it from spoiling; it will improve in flavor left at room temperature for several days.


  3. Daedalus Howell

    Lynn –

    Thanks for the recipe and insight. Does the recipe work without the fish sauce, or is it integral to the fermenting process? Thanks, DH

  4. Diane Vigil

    Hi, Daedalus. I’d suggest trying it without … perhaps split up the recipe and do one with and one without — and see how you like it.

  5. Lynn Cameron

    It is my understanding that the fish sauce is the backbone of the culturing process – hence nutrient content. This ketchup is a pale imitation of the garum food/condiment of the Roman Legions – fermenting fish being the essential flavor. Tomatoe paste probably came later and was seasonal.

    I have just finished my last batch and will culture another liter this week. Having the ingredients on hand is key; the actual mixing takes little time; easy culturing at room temperature is accomplished in just 3 days. I refrigerate a pint jar’s worth for immediate use and store the large jar in my pantry cupboard.


  6. Kyle R

    The recipe has whey. Is that liquid or powdered whey? If it is liquid how do I get it or make it?

  7. Diane Vigil

    Hi Kyle. The recipe mentions “liquid from plain yogurt”, so likely you won’t need to make anything.

    Let us know how it turns out!

  8. Lynn Cameron

    Hi Kyle,

    I use the liquid whey from my own yogurt, but a good brand of store-bought organic yogurt can be used as long as it is unflavored and contains active cultures to begin the fermentation of the sauce into a condiment.

  9. Donna W

    How long will this ketchup keep in the refridgerator? You also mention that you keep the large jar in your pantry. How long will it keep there? Thanks, Donna

  10. Lynn Cameron

    Hi Donna,

    This ketchup will keep as long as store bought. The tomato paste and salt of the fish sauce act to preserve it as well as the natural fermentation. My pantry cupboard is cool enough in winter to keep it; I take care to keep it out of the light. Placing waxed paper between the food and jar lid helps if using recycled generic glass. Take some out of the big jar into a smaller container and eat from that one. Always use a clean spoon with every ‘dip’ to keep the strain of active cultures pure.


  11. Catherine

    I am wondering if agave nectar can be substituted for the maple syrup?

    Also, an easy way to get whey liquid is to put some yogurt in a colander lined with coffee filters over a bowl, which is then placed in the fridge for a few hours. The whey will drain into the bowl, and the remaining yogurt will be nice and thick, like greek yogurt. (yum!).

  12. Diane Vigil

    I am wondering if agave nectar can be substituted for the maple syrup?

    I can’t imagine why not. They’re both liquid, although the taste is a little different.

    Your method of getting the whey from yogurt (and getting thick yogurt, too) sounds not only easy, but tasty!

  13. Lynn Cameron

    Hi Catherine,

    I am a fan of agave syrup because my dh is diabetic, and it doesn’t seem to ‘dump’ sugar like jet fuel into the blood stream like maple syrup does. Because of the small amount of sweetener that remains per serving in the ketchup, I’ve not tried substituting agave for the maple syrup. Besides which, I live in a sugar maple forest, love maple syrup, and like to use regional foods as much as possible. No matter which one you choose, it will ferment beautifully, I have no doubt, and you will be brilliantly appropriate on your Holiday table as an all around meat condiment extraordinaire.

    Good idea about the coffee filters straining the whey from cultured milk products. To strain both yogurt and kefir curds from whey, I use reusable cheesecloth which takes running through the dishwasher to remove the lactic acid activity from it.

    Fage Greek yogurt satiates so well because of its high butterfat content; it’s creamy, mild and takes both savory and sweet flavors superbly. I have been able to make a very tasty cross between expensive and trendy ‘Greek’ yogurt and commercial sour cream by simply culturing a couple Tbls. raw milk kefir whey (raw enzymes intact) at room temp. for 24-48 hrs. w/ a pint of cream. I use low-temp. pasteurized organic heavy whipping cream from grass-fed Jersey cows; it’s a nutrient-dense food & UN-homogenized which is even more important with cream (high fat) than with whole milk (4% fat).

    Evans Farmhouse Creamery near Ithaca, NY is awarded 5 Cows by cornucopia.com. I can highly recommend their entire line of dairy products. I can save 20% through my regional buying club, wholeshare.com.

    Happy culturing,

  14. Samual

    Great recipe. However I just stuck with the paste, maple syrup and fish sauce. It does the perfect job!!!

    Cut the fructose and live longer! I can enjoy my favorite condiment again with my favorite meals!

  15. Lynn Cameron

    Yes, Samuel, and the on-going fermentation in this fine condiment is actively assisting digestion. These traditional ‘relishes’ have been served through the centuries in all cultures with meat, cheeses & fish for this reason. German Saurkraut with beef and cornichon with French raclette and pickled herring(sill)from European traditions. I am less familiar with Asian and other cuisines, but there is a vast array out there both tasty and nutrient-dense.

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