Spicy Creole Ketchup
As a promised follow up to the smoked herring croquettes I posted on Monday, here is a delicious dipping sauce for them or wherever you’d usually use ketchup. In Haiti, smoked herring is often eaten in a Creole sauce that contains onions, tomatoes, habaneros, vinegar and ground cloves. To me, that translates almost directly to ketchup!
If you read the recipe, one thing I do might seem a bit strange if you haven’t seen it before. I cook the sugar in oil first, almost to the point of burning. This is actually how a lot of West Indian stews start off, though many use a jarred product called browning which is effectively the same thing. It imparts a caramelized flavor that isn’t altogether unlike molasses, and it worked really well as a ketchup base.
The resulting ketchup is a touch smoky, with heat from the habaneros and spice from the cloves and nutmeg. It will keep for weeks as is but is also safe to load into sterilized bottles if you wish to keep it longer. Enjoy!
Yields approximately 2 cups
1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in purée
2 tbsps olive oil
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 small red onion, cut into a medium dice
½-1 habanero pepper, seeded and ribbed, finely chopped
healthy pinch of ground cloves
healthy pinch of ground nutmeg
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp sundried or regular tomato paste
1/3 cup cider vinegar
Salt to taste
Chives, finely chopped
In a blender, pour entire contents of the can of tomatoes and purée until smooth.
Heat a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add oil. Add sugar and cook stirring for 2 to 3 minutes until the sugar turns gelatinous and sticks together. It should darken in color, and you should smell like its about to burn. Add chopped onion, habanero, and spices, and cook for another 4-5 minutes until the onions have softened. Don’t worry if the sugar solidifies when you add the onions – it will redissolve. Add minced garlic and tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add puréed tomatoes and vinegar. Bring to a slow bubble and simmer for an hour, stirring every now and then.
Remove from the heat and let cool. Return everything to the blender and purée until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Fold in chopped chives before serving. This ketchup will keep for about a month – longer if placed in sterilized jars.