Dress up your ketchup and the perfect Sloppy Joes

My husband and I often joke that we buy ketchup to make other better sauces.  Sure, it’s great for a burger or fries, but if you get it near my bratwurst or mac and cheese, bad things will befall you.  It’s just too sweet on its own.  Which is why, instead of smothering all forms of protein (like in the house where I grew up) it contributes to sauces with much better flavors.

Did you know that ketchup dates back to imperial China?  It also started completely tomato-less.   Tomatoes were brought to Europe from South America in the 1500’s, but not eaten as they were regarded as poisonous.  According to History.com, ketchup began as a fermented fish sauce called “koe-cheup” which was picked up by British traders in the 1700’s.  During the 1800’s, European cookbooks had recipes for ketchups made of seemingly everything – from oysters to mushrooms, celery to peaches, lemons to walnuts, even one made of elderberries and anchovies in honor of the Prince of Wales! (I’m not too sure that’s an honor.)  Thankfully in 1812, Philadelphia scientist William Mease wrote that tomatoes made the choicest ketchup.

So this week I’m giving you ways to dress up your ketchup.  There are hundreds of BBQ sauces out there, including one I’ve already shared, see the link below.  There was also a cocktail sauce recipe I found, but my husband doesn’t like to eat anything that swims, so I couldn’t justify making a batch just to put it in the fridge saying I’ll make something for it, but instead letting it go bad and inevitably throwing it out.  It’s found in the Joy of Cooking if you’re seeking said recipe.  Ketchup also shows up in a few salad dressings, and surprisingly enough, the easy sweet and sour sauce I’ve made for this week.

My first offering is something I kinda threw together this week.  I love Sloppy Joe’s, but I don’t normally like buying the canned sauce.  As many of you know, I love making things from scratch for varying reasons, in this case, seeing what actually goes into a can of mysterious orange liquid.  It was a lot simpler than I expected it to be.  Most online recipes will recommend ketchup for this, but I used a ketchup based BBQ sauce, and that’s close enough to counting.  If the BBQ sauce you choose for this is particularly spicy, you may want to add a bit of brown sugar.  My BBQ sauce was on the sweet side, so I didn’t think I needed extra help in that area, thus chose not add it.  That’s the great thing about cooking, anything can be adjusted to your tastes, it’s a very accommodating arena.

So much better than canned.
So much better than canned.

Sloppy Joes

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 3/4 C favorite BBQ sauce (Joe’s sauce is great for this.)
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves minced onion
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 C Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. dry mustard (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. Brown Sugar (optional)

Brown and drain hamburger.  Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic, stir until veggies are soft.  Add BBQ sauce, Dijon, Worcestershire and spices, stir until warmed through.

You probably wouldn’t guess that ketchup can play a key part in French dressing.  This recipe is my great-grandmother’s recipe, and one of my all-time favorite dressings.  The most work of the whole thing is grating the onion, made of ingredients you probably already have in your refrigerator.  Think about that before you pick up a pricey bottle.  Why wait for it to go on sale?  Throw this in a blender!

Who knew salad dressing was so easy?
Who knew salad dressing was so easy?

Grandma Howar’s French Dressing

  • 1/2 C veggie oil (Wesson preferred)
  • 1/3 C Ketchup
  • 1/4 C White vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon (about 1 Tbsp.)
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1 tsp. Garlic salt
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Paprika
  • 2/3 C sugar

Combine everything in a blender, blend until smooth.

The late Mr. Food was probably the first chef I remember seeing on TV.  He was all about making amazing meals that only looked difficult.  He wanted to bring great food to normal people who don’t necessarily like to cook.  This sweet and sour sauce of his I found originally to pour over pork chops.  It’s only FOUR ingredients! I poured mine over a stir fry.  My picture looks a little different because I saved the pineapple chunks for the wok, not the sauce, but is otherwise mostly the same.  The original recipe didn’t call for much cider vinegar or brown sugar, so I kept adding more of both until it didn’t taste so strongly like ketchup.

Combining these four ingredients is much easier than squeezing hundreds of stolen packets into a stir fry platter.
Combining four ingredients is easier than squeezing hundreds of stolen packets into a stir fry platter.

Easy Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • 1 (20 oz.) can pineapple chunks in juice
  • 3 Tbsp. Cider Vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
  • 3/4 C Ketchup

Drain juice into small saucepan, combining with the rest of the ingredients.  Stir until smooth and somewhat thinned.  If desired, add more vinegar or brown sugar to adjust to personal taste of sweetness or sourness.  Add pineapple chunks, stir until warmed through.

Tip of the week: When you’ve emptied your ketchup bottle, wash it out and keep it for the next time you make pancakes.  It’s great for storing the batter, not only in a resealable container, but you can also pour out batter without slopping a dripping ladle across your counter and stove top.  It can also help in making your pancakes into shapes or letters and impress your kiddies.