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This has some relation to my previous question. Though I have managed to successfully blend xanthan gum with my home-made tomato mixture, I am unable to achieve a texture close to Hienz, or Hunt's ketchup, or any commercial sauce for that matter.

My xanthan gum-added ketchup does not have the same buttery, smooth texture of Hienz. No matter what I do, the resulting sauce is too mucus-like.

My question is, besides xanthan gum, do ketchup manufacturers add anything else to achieve the buttery, smooth texture?

Below is my ketchup recipe:

  1. Boil 1kg of canned San Marzano tomatoes for 5 mins, until soft.

  2. Press the mixture through a sieve to get a clear juice and filter out any pulp or skin. Ketch

  3. I would then simmer this juice with 200ml of vinegar on a pot for 3- 4 hours until it reduces from 900ml to 300ml. Note that at this point, the sauce is still watery.

  4. I added xanthan gum at this step, 1/8 of a teaspoon at a time. The resulting mixture after adding around 3/8 teaspoons was that the ketchup was still thin, but already mucus-like in mouth feel. Adding more xanthan gum at this point thickened the sauce considerably, but also made it more disgusting in mouth feel.

  • So why did you add xanthan gum? It produces mucus like texture on its own. – rumtscho Sep 1 '17 at 16:50
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    No Xanthan Gum in Heinz, btw: telegram.hr/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/271506.jpg – SnakeDoc Sep 1 '17 at 17:50
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    Given the start point being canned tomatoes (so you're willing to used processed commercial sources), of course the easiest method of all is to buy a bottle of Heinz and/or a bottle of Hunts, and leave the processing to them. This sort of thing (other than as an experiment, or to make it from your own homegrown tomatoes) is terribly inefficient if the product you want is right there in the stores. – Ecnerwal Sep 1 '17 at 19:53
  • @Ecnerwal Cooking isn't always about efficiency. I like to cook hamburgers at home, even though it's more efficient to buy one from McDonalds. – SnakeDoc Sep 1 '17 at 21:11
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    @Ecnerwal The point was, sometimes people cook for fun, to learn, or just to be proud of their creation. I like to make hot sauce, even though I surely can buy it with much less fuss, and there are plenty of great tasting hot sauces. The experience of making it has made me appreciate a good hot sauce much more than before. No, I don't grow my own peppers, make my own vinegar, etc... but the product still tastes great and was a lot of fun to make. – SnakeDoc Sep 3 '17 at 16:59
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Try sugar.

Per Heinz' website, the ingredients in their ketchup are:

TOMATO CONCENTRATE FROM RED RIPE TOMATOES, DISTILLED VINEGAR, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORN SYRUP, SALT, SPICE, ONION POWDER, NATURAL FLAVORING

I notice that they do not include xanthan gum at all, but they do include sugar in the form of various corn syrups. Cooking plain sugar can can harden it (think the ball stages of candy-making). I think that what happens in commercial ketchup is not so much a "thickening" as a "hardening" of the tomato syrup, for lack of a better word. It is likely that during the reducing stage of ketchup making, the sugar reaches what would be at least soft-ball stage if the ratio of sugar to everything else was correct, thus leading to a ketchup that is "thick" but not hard or mucus-y.

Edited to add: As noted in the comments by @Ecnerwal, Heinz also seems to be using a tomato concentrate, which would include the flesh of the tomatoes. When I initially read the question, I seem to have missed that you're straining out the solids. Try leaving them in as you reduce-- the addition of solid matter will also help thicken while providing a better mouthfeel.

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    I also note that they use tomato concentrate, not (as the OP seems to be) tomato juice. i.e. pulp is part of it (as I'd expect from having eaten ketchup.) – Ecnerwal Sep 1 '17 at 14:36
  • @Ecnerwal, Huh, I missed the straining step in the recipe given. Edited to include. Thanks. – senschen Sep 1 '17 at 17:48
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Big name commercial ketchups are some of the most precisely manufactured substances in the food business. Heinz's process has been described (in an article I can't find at the moment) as "harder than rocket science," though that includes the very precise growing and selecting of tomatoes that go into their concentrate. Trying to replicate it precisely has eluded generic ketchup manufacturers for quite some time.

Your process is essentially attempting to thicken tomato water with xanthan gum. As you noted in your question, this will unfailingly yield tomato snot.

If you pureé the tomatoes until they are extremely smooth using a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix or Blendtec, and then cook the mixture down slowly until it turns into tomato paste, you can then add your spices, sugar, and vinegar to get something which more closely approximates commercial ketchup. Even a powerful high-speed blender will produce a mixture more closely resembling baby food than the imperceptibly small particulate matter in commercial ketchup, but it'll still be pretty good.

If you don't really care about the source of your tomatoes, go ahead and start with canned tomato paste and cook vinegar, spices, sugar, etc. This will get you even closer.

You might find this video to be useful.

Good luck!

  • Thanks for your answer. I will try the tomato paste method. The 'baby food' texture is also why I used a sieve to press out the juice from the pulp. An older method I used would reduce the juice on heat until a thick, concentrated ketchup-like sauce remained, but this was expensive (50ml of sauce out of 1kg of tomatoes). I will try the tomato paste method. – user60513 Sep 2 '17 at 16:37
  • Another question. If manufacturers don't use xanthan gum, how does ketchup get it's thixotropic properties? – user60513 Sep 2 '17 at 16:38
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    Damnit Jim, I'm a chef, not a physicist ;-) – ChefAndy Sep 3 '17 at 5:47
  • I was going to recommend using a Vitamix as well, before or after cooking. You can strain through cheesecloth as well to get desired smoothness as well if you'd like! – soup4life Apr 25 '18 at 17:34
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I have 3 young children who will only eat UK Heinz tomato ketchup. I am trying to make homemade stuff to mimic Heinz with the same main ingredients. The kids mainly spot the difference with texture/mouth feel. After much research I have found a possible answer -

Heinz does not 'add' thickeners. It relies solely on the tomato for texture.

From a recent Advertising Standards Case related to Heinz ketchup in Australia and New Zealand, but the same recipe as the UK where I live-

The thickness of the Product comes from the inclusion of 77% concentrated tomatoes. The Product contains 181g of tomatoes per 100mL, which equates to 905g of tomatoes in every standard 500mL bottle. The Product does not contain any other thickeners

So how does Heinz get the rheological properties (thixotropic) without additional thickeners (hydrocolloids)?

I found this article claiming that waste tomato pulp can be used for this purpose, which 'may' be the key ingredient-

Tomato pulp powder, a by-product of the tomato processing industry, could be used at low levels as a thickening agent in ketchup, in place of other hydrocolloids

The full publication is linked here

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