Every summer I look for a recipe that will capture the vibrant color of yellow tomatoes, hoping to bring their summer sunshine to the table the rest of the year. This new recipe for Yellow Tomato Ketchup auditioned for the summer 2010 roll out at Springy Banks Cannery. (Our house is on Springy Banks Rd., so "Cannery" is just an honorific for the kitchen. And S.B.C. does look impressive our labels.)
Preserving whole yellow tomatoes following regular recipes does result in lovely looking jars. The color holds true so you get great visual satisfaction as they patiently await their fate on the shelf.
The let down occurs when you cook with your home-canned yellows. When added to a sauce, no matter how simple, their light color slips away, rendering them invisible. The enticing original radiance abandons ship, even while the garden-ripe taste remains. Where's the drama? The novelty? The showy alternative to red?
Prior results of my optimistically dubbed "Golden Tomato Sauce" foreshadowed the outcome of this ketchup project. Using yellow tomatoes for sauce darkens them. The addition of herbs doesn't help matters. But ever the optimist, perhaps the gentle heat of a Crock Pot, instead of the punishment of the stove top, might lull the tomatoes into holding onto their color.
The jumping off point for this recipe comes from Robin Raudabaugh of Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm. Besides the cooking method, my other small changes of an added hot pepper, a bit of sugar and some Goya Adobo powder brought the flavors more into line of my expectations.
So off we went on a two-day odyssey in pursuit of a densely flavored ketchup with a distinctly lighter, brighter hue. Our leisurely project began with ten pounds of voluptuous organic yellow tomatoes, five organic yellow bell peppers, five yellow onions and a lone yellow Scotch bonnet pepper. Yellow.
The chopped vegetables were gently cooked down in this jumbo Crock Pot , liberating us from the Cannery on a glorious August afternoon.
Color check #1: After four hours of just-barely-bubbling, the tomatoes and pepper had slid down the spectrum a couple of notches towards orange. But at least they were still snazzier than their red brethren would have been at this point. The tantalizing vapors when the lid was lifted temporarily reduced our color-anxiety — the incomparable fresh tomato taste was ensured.
Now the only regrets from yard sales are things you let slip away, so I rarely take a chance if something strikes my fancy. Years ago I snagged this monster food mill. Though rarely called into service, it's a priceless treasure — gotten for a mere $5! Smaller ones are also easy to find.
Then back to the Crock Pot for round two. An overnight reduction with a pouch of cinnamon, cloves, mustard, coriander, allspice, bay leaves and pepper infused the tomatoes as they slowly simmered and thickened.
Well, just as with prior projects, the ketchup had also darkened. It reminded me of asking why leaves turn colors in the fall and the improbable answer was "the colors were there all along." Maybe that's the case here? More likely it's cooking 101: the application of heat to food typically results in the food turning a darker color. See: Browning.
But we weren't done yet. A further stove-top reduction brought the ketchup to the familiar consistency. At this point we couldn't continue to proclaim it orange, but orangy-red was believable. And the taste? Indisputably a perfect 10. A layered spicines, tangy with a hint of sweet, the ripeness of tomatoes singing loudly and true. A pitch-perfect performance.
The interesting thing was that it was so ketchupy but yet so different from the familiar flavor of good old Heinz.
Seeking closure, we funneled the hot ketchup into sterilized canning jars and put them through a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Ten lbs. of organic tomatoes produced six 1/2 pint jars of ketchup. They're' now safely tucked away in the private reserve area of the storage shelf.