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Got Modern Kids? Then Give Them the Ketchup They Crave

Tomato Bunch

Kids these days. I’ll tell you. They are not only the same picky eaters that your parents accused you of being, they want stuff you never considered. Like spicy food. Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, all with plenty of zing on the tongue. Even school lunchrooms are paying attention to the trends in spicy and zesty. (Not to mention better prepared, and more nutritious.) They seldom settle for the same ol’ ketchup on their fries, either.

Luckily, that’s where you’re headed too! (My wife claims that, in my case, it’s because my taste buds have been scorched too often, and they’re getting tired, and so they need more and more capsaicin. She’s a hardcore kitchen cynic.) The American palate, for all age groups, is enjoying more spices and more heat than ever before in their foods.

If you’re a vegetable gardener, you have another problem this time of year. One that your kids don’t often help you solve. (And I’m not talking about the tilling, planting, fertilizing, watering, spraying and weeding.) You can only feed your family so many tomatoes before there’s a rebellion on your hands. Even if they enjoy the round, red fruit as much as Garrison Keillor; even if you thrive on salads; still, there are usually more tomatoes on hand about this time than you can even give away. (Ever notice how the neighbors begin to avoid dropping by for a cup of coffee nowadays? It’s not your Right Guard.)

Ketchup

Here’s something you can do that addresses both situations:

Okay, this one’s not a small recipe. Anything that starts with ten pounds of a vegetable can’t be considered small, at least for home cooks. However, most years we could easily double the recipe and still have produce available for the county fair‘s dunking booth attraction. (The Texas Renaissance Festival even has an attraction called the Tomato Torment, and they still don’t make a dent in local red-globe production.) One of the beauties of this concoction is it doesn’t go bad quickly. It’s not the commercial stuff, so it doesn’t have enough chemical preservatives in it to make it last to the next ice age. It will stick around well when refrigerated, though; and canned it may last for years. (I haven’t tried that, though.)

Tomato Basket

You get to control the heat to any setting you like. Shoot, you don’t even have to add any chiles, if you don’t want. (So why are you here, exactly? The baby food aisle is way over there.) I set the recipe to one chile per quart of product; that’s actually quite mild, to my taste buds. (Warning: See Note Above.) You can use other chiles as well. Once the product has been puréed enough, you won’t notice any chile bits, just the heat. Or maybe you like your ketchup to have a bit of texture? That’s also a possibility. Heck, you may choose not to put your sauce in a blender and take it for a whirl. That makes a nice, somewhat chunky dipping sauce. (It’s still good on sandwiches, just not so much on French fries.)

However you choose to set the sauce consistency and zest, I’m fairly sure you’ll make something that the kids will like. And if not, well, at least you got rid of a few of the tomatoes…

Enjoy the (Zingy Red Sauce) Heat!

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