Nobody said ketchup must be made from tomatoes. Historically, the tangy condiment has used various foods as the main spiced ingredient. Among these: mushrooms or bananas (a version that’s especially popular in the Philippines). Watermelon ketchup is one of a long line of successful variations of the condiment.
Cook’s Note 1: The recipe takes about 2 hours to make, so plan accordingly.
Cook’s Note 2: The ketchup-cooking process almost seems like a magic trick — for the longest time it’s hard to believe that the ingredients could possibly become a tangy ketchup. Not only is the watermelon juice a pathetic-looking liquid while it simmers, it also smells oddly vegetal. (As the Los Angeles Times put it: “Ignore the unpromising aromas that emerge during cooking.”) Even after the spices are added, the recipe doesn’t seem to be working. Then, suddenly, just in the last minute, it becomes a dense and richly delicious ketchup. Magic trick complete.
Makes about ½ cup, enough for 6-8 people
7-8 cups cubed watermelon
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground mace* (can substitute ground allspice or ground nutmeg)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of cloves
In 2-cup batches, put the watermelon cubes in a blender or food processor and puree. You should have about 4 cups of pureed watermelon when you’re finished.
Over a large bowl, press the puree though a fine-mesh strainer.
Place a 10-inch nonstick skillet on the stove and transfer the watermelon juice into it. Bring the juice to a boil over medium high heat; reduce the heat and simmer (uncovered) until thick, about 1½ hours, stirring from time to time. During the last ½ hour, watch the ketchup carefully to prevent scorching.
During the last 5 minutes of cooking, stir in the vinegar, mace (or substitutes), cinnamon, and cloves.
Taste and add more spices if you’d like.
— Slightly adapted from the Los Angeles Times
Recipe tested by Ellen Ficklen; email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org