3 ketchup recipes that skip the tomatoes

Try these recipes with cherries, Santa Rosa plums for a unique twist on the ubiquitous french fry.|

As a teen, I had a sleepover almost every weekend. If parents weren’t home, and they frequently weren’t, my friends and I would take over the kitchen and make popcorn, spaghetti with plain tomato sauce and, if we felt ambitious, french fries.

Really good fries are a delight. For almost 20 years, I enjoyed the ones at the now-closed K & L Bistro in Sebastopol. The first time I ordered them, I asked for aioli to go with them. A few minutes later, I saw Karen Martin, co-owner and co-chef with her husband Lucas Martin, holding a big metal bowl in one hand and a whisk in the other, whipping up the aioli. Those fries were so good slathered with aioli and just a bit of ketchup.

Ketchup is, of course, the classic condiment with fries, at least in the United States. In France, Belgium and the Netherlands, mayonnaise is the default dip. And yes, you are likely to receive a patronizing look if you ask for ketchup in a French cafe, but if that’s what you prefer, so what?

Dijon mustard is excellent, too, and a lot of people like dipping their fries in honey mustard. Crème fraîche with a few shakes of Tabasco makes a delicious dipping sauce, too.

And to drink? The absolute best companion is dry sparkling wine, anything from an inexpensive Spanish cava to the best local sparkler you can afford.

You want to use a neutral-tasting oil to make fries, such as a mildly flavored olive oil or corn, grapeseed or peanut oil. Do not use extra-virgin olive oil; it’s too expensive and has too much flavor.

Perfect French Fries

Makes 4 servings

5 (about 2 pounds) medium-large organic potatoes, either Kennebec or mature russets

2 quarts peanut, corn or olive oil

Kosher salt

Condiments of choice

Scrub the potatoes thoroughly but do not peel them.

Cut the potatoes lengthwise into ⅜-inch-wide slices. Cut the slices into ⅜-inch-wide strips. Put the potatoes in a large bowl, cover with water and refrigerate for at least 2 hours; overnight is best.

To cook the potatoes the first time, drain them thoroughly and dry them on tea towels (not on paper towels, which can tear apart and stick to the potatoes).

Pour the oil into a deep-fryer or deep, heavy saucepan set over medium heat. Bring the temperature to 350 degrees. Put a handful of potatoes into a fryer basket and submerge it in the hot oil. Agitate the basket gently to distribute the potatoes evenly so they don’t stick to each other. Fry for 4 minutes and transfer to absorbent paper, such as a large paper grocery bag. The potatoes should be completely tender but without color. If they darken, lower the heat and wait a few minutes before continuing. Repeat until all the potatoes have been fried.

Remove the oil from the heat. Put the potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet and cool for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.

To finish cooking, return the deep-fryer or skillet to medium heat. When the oil reaches 360 degrees, fry the potatoes in batches until they are golden brown and just crisp, about 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer each batch to absorbent paper before adding a second batch. Season with salt and enjoy right away, with your preferred condiments alongside.

Note: You can cool the oil, strain it, store it in a cool and dark place and use it to make another batch or two of fries, after which it should be discarded.

With Bing cherry season underway, now is a great time to make this delicious condiment. For a very smooth version, pass it through a strainer before packing it into glass jars.

Cherry Ketchup

Makes about 2½ cups

2½ pounds Bing cherries, pitted

¾ cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup brown sugar, packed

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

¾ teaspoon finely ground white pepper

½ teaspoon ground cayenne

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground clove

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

Put the cherries, vinegar and sugar into a saucepan and set over medium heat. Stir gently until the liquid begins to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the fruit is quite soft, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool for about 15 minutes. Puree the mixture with an immersion blender. Add the lemon zest, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, clove and cardamom and stir well.

Return to low heat and cook until the mixture is quite thick, about 1 hour or a bit longer. Taste and correct for seasoning, to your taste.

Remove from the heat and spoon into hot glass jars. Let cool; the mixture will continue to thicken. Add lids and rings.

At this point, you can store the ketchup in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks or process it in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, which will allow it to keep for about a year in a cool, dark pantry.

Local blueberries will start to ripen any minute now. This is one of my favorite ways to use them when I have more than I can eat fresh.

Blueberry Ketchup

Makes about 2 cups

2 pounds fresh blueberries, picked over for rocks and stems, washed and drained

2 cups brown sugar, plus more to taste

1 cup best-quality red wine vinegar, such as O Zinfandel

1 cinnamon stick

2 whole cloves

2 allspice berries

1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Put the berries into a medium saucepan, add the brown sugar and the vinegar and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the berries have softened, about 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Set a large strainer or colander over a deep bowl and tip the blueberries and all the juice into it. Stir gently to release as much of the liquid as possible.

Pour the juice back into the saucepan and add the cinnamon, cloves, allspice, peppercorns and salt. Set over medium heat and simmer until reduced by at least half.

Meanwhile, pass the blueberries through a food mill or press them through a potato ricer, using the smallest blade.

Use a small strainer to remove and discard the spices from the liquid. Stir in the blueberry puree and cook very gently, stirring frequently, until thickened. It will take about 15 minutes; stir from the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching. Taste, correct for salt and sugar and remove from the heat.

Cool and store in a glass jar until ready to use. It will keep for about 2 months.

Santa Rosa plums are in season only briefly, at most 3 to 4 weeks, usually starting in early July. You can make this ketchup with other types of plums, but be sure to taste and adjust the seasonings.

Santa Rosa Plum Ketchup

Makes about 2 cups

2 pounds Santa Rosa plums, quartered and pitted

1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into small dice

5 fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 ¼ ounces fresh ginger, grated

1 cinnamon stick

1 whole star anise, optional

2 pinches each of ground clove, ground cardamom and ground allspice

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 cup red wine

½ cup apple cider vinegar, plus more to taste

¾ - 1 cup coconut sugar or brown sugar

¼ - ½ teaspoon chipotle powder or ground cayenne

Put the pitted plums into a medium saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, anise, if using, ground spices, salt, white pepper and wine and stir. Set over medium-low heat and cook for about 15 minutes or until the heated fruit begins to soften and relax. Cover the pan, remove from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes.

Return the pan to medium heat and simmer gently until the wine is nearly completely evaporated. Add the vinegar, sugar and chipotle powder or cayenne. Stir and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until the fruit is very soft and the mixture has begun to thicken.

Use tongs to remove and discard the cinnamon and anise.

Remove from the heat, cool slightly and puree with an immersion blender or in a standard blender. Return to medium heat; taste; correct for acid, sugar and salt; and cook, stirring gently, until the mixture is quite thick.

Remove from the heat, cool and pour into glass jars. Store in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks. The ketchup also can be frozen; to do so, pack into small freezer bags, seal and set flat in the freezer. For optimum taste and texture, use within 3 months.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “The Good Cook’s Book of Oil & Vinegar.” Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com.

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