When I was a kid, we often had a homemade condiment in our house that my dad called ketchup.  I was never quite sure why he called it ketchup because it didn’t bear any resemblance to Heinz, but it sure was tasty.  It was a sweet/sour/slightly spicy concoction of tomatoes and fruit.  I loved it.  It goes with practically anything — cheese and crackers, meat, tourtiere (meat pie), any savory dish was made better by the addition of ketchup.  It was something one or another member of my family made at the end of most summers because of the overabundance of tomatoes in the garden.

This year, I have an overabundance of tomatoes and I was craving some ketchup.  So I went on a hunt for the recipe, now armed with the knowledge that this condiment is also called Fruit Chow Chow.  I’ve purchased the store bought version many times, but it just doesn’t quite measure up to the homemade stuff.

And weirdly enough, I couldn’t really find a recipe.  All of the chow chow recipes pointed me to some weird fruit, or to relish recipes made with all vegetables.  This was just not right.  Why doesn’t the internet know what fruit chow chow is?

Finally, I found this one recipe, which seemed close.  So I used it as a base, and was pleased with the results.  I also discovered along the way, that apparently this is a French Canadian thing, and the way to find lots of recipes is to search for it in French, where it is called ketchup aux fruits.  Explains why my dad always called it ketchup.  I now have a ton of recipes to choose from, and still more tomatoes coming from my garden, so I may make a few more batches, as some of the French recipes I’ve found are closer to what I remember from my childhood.

Here’s my version of the recipe.  You can adjust quantities to suit what you have.  I believe this recipe is very forgiving.

Fruit chow chow, or ketchup aux fruits

  • 8 tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped.  My tomatoes were huge for the most part.  To peel the tomatoes with relative ease, boil a big pot of water.  Cut a shallow “x” in the bottom of each tomato.  Submerge the tomatoes in the boiling water for about a minute, then transfer them to cold/ice water.  The peels should come off fairly easily from the “x” at the bottom.
  • 4 large peaches, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped.  You could also use plums (you’d need maybe 8, unless they are huge) or nectarines.
  • 4 large pears, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped.  I used yellow skinned pears but I forget which variety.  Whatever kind of pear you like will work.  You could also use apples.
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 4 large stalks of celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of white sugar
  • 2 cups of apple cider vinegar (or regular vinegar if you prefer)
  • 4 tsp of salt (or to your own taste, start with less if you’re concerned about salt)
  • 3 to 4 tsp of pickling spice (again to your own taste)

Toss everything into a big pot, stir it up and bring it to a boil.  Then simmer it until it reduces and thickens up a bit.  It won’t be really thick — it’s not supposed to be.  But it should reduce quite a bit and become dark and thicker.  I cooked mine at a good simmer for about 2 and half hours.  This is what mine looked like when it went into the pot (it didn’t look this blurry in person):


After 2 and half hours, it had reduced by about one third I’d say.  Again, this is to your personal taste — depends on how much liquid you like in your ketchup.

You can preserve this if you want to.  Wash and sterilize your jars as per usual.  The recipe above gave me 9 x 250ml (1 cup) jars, with just a tiny bit leftover for me to taste.  I processed the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Some people say they don’t bother to heat process this kind of recipe because it’s acidic, but I figure better safe than sorry.

You can see by the jars how the ketchup is now much darker in colour.  I found it to be just the right balance of sweet and spicy — I went fairly heavily on the pickling spice — but that’s how we like things around here.  If you want the flavour of the pickling spice without the actual spice bits (they can be a bit crunchy) in the finished product, but the spices in a cheesecloth tied bag and remove them before canning.


I got to hear the satisfying “pop” of the jars sealing.  That makes me happy.

This ketchup is particularly good on top of crackers with brie or other soft cheese, or as a topping for a baked brie.  It’s also awesome with tourtiere (meat pie) which is a Christmas tradition at our house.  And excellent with pork and chicken.  If you try it out, let me know how it goes.

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