Three Day Catsup

Some of you know the Edwards family in Illinois and have had the great pleasure of eating their delicious produce.  This recipe and pictures comes from Ethan Edwards.


Three Day Catsup
This is another recipe that was handed down from my grandmother, Ida Knobeloch. It
makes an amazingly tasty catsup. I just finished a double batch last week. This recipe
ends up making about 8-9 pints, but there’s a great deal of acceptable variation in
exactly the quantities used, so one should have confidence in increasing or decreasing
the recipe.
Cut up tomatoes to make five gallons. Put in crock or enamel canner and add 1 cup of
canning salt and mix well.

Tomatoes cut and salted
Cover and let sit three days. Check daily. A dull or whitish mold will start forming on
the surface as the tomatoes begin to ferment; stir this in each day to bring different
tomatoes to the surface.

Tomatoes on Day 3 after fermentation

By the third day, most of the water and many of the seeds will have separated from the
pulp which will be floating on top. Lift the pulp, trying to leave as much of the water as
possible, and bring to a boil in a stainless steel pot, cooking about 10 minutes or until
hot through.

Cooked pulp with skins and seeds

Put this pulp through a sieve or food mill to remove the pulp from the tomato skins and
the remaining seeds.

Separating seeds and skins

Return the pulp to the stove. Add two cups vinegar, 7 cups of sugar, about 2 cups
of onions chopped fine, and about 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, and pickling spices tied in
cheesecloth (about the size of a walnut or so). Bring to a boil.

Spice Ball


Final cooking.

 Cook until desired consistency is reached (about 1.5 hours), stirring periodically. Ladle into hot jars and seal.

 A couple notes: 

  • Cooking times are going to vary a lot based on the water content of the tomatoes.  At each stage, make every attempt to remove any water or clear liquid that separates on its own, as this is easier than trying to boil it away.
  • 7 cups is a lot of sugar, but it really makes this delicious.  Grandma had added at the bottom of this recipe when she wrote it out for me, “Maybe 6 cups sugar” but I’ve never lowered the quantity (although I’ve loaded up the initial measurement of tomatoes to be almost 6 gallons and have not increased the sugar…)
  • This works best when temperatures are still on the warm side; you want that white mold to form.  I usually do this in August or September in a house without air conditioning, so there’s lots of activity in the pot during those three days.  A friend of mine loved the catsup so much and tried it in their frigidly cooled house and very little foam formed, and the resulting catsup really lacked the intensity of flavor that makes this so good.  So that white stuff is good!  It is boiled so long and the sugar and acid concentration is so high that nothing bad is going to survive that.
  • This lasts a long time if you store in a dark, cool place.  It is outstanding on hamburgers and hot dogs, but incredible in meatloaf and as the basis for cocktail sauce.


Filed under Delicious Tidbits, Pictures, Recipes

4 responses to “Three Day Catsup

  1. Melissa @ HerGreenLife

    I just made a batch of catsup (with tomatoes from our garden) with my mother-in-law, using an old recipe from her family. This stuff is so delicious we have to make a concerted effort to ration it, otherwise, we would eat it by the spoonful. I’m intrigued by the 3-day catsup, though the whole stirring in the mold bit makes me kind of nervous.

  2. Wow, this looks good. Thanks for sharing those notes and procedure. 😉 Keep it up!

  3. Hello! I have two questions: first, do you have to use Roma or some other paste variety of tomatoes for this recipe? Second, how do you measure the tomatoes at the beginning, before or after adding the salt?

    I made this recipe last week and I measured the tomatoes before adding the salt–I started with just over 5 gallons of slicing tomatoes (not romas). After adding the salt, the tomatoes slumped quite a bit and it ended up looking more like ~3 gallons of tomatoes. I did not add more tomatoes and continued on with the recipe.

    The tomatoes had a strong smell while they were fermenting, but it wasn’t gross and it didn’t smell “rotten.” When I ladled the solids into a pot and cooked them, I was surprised how good it smelled!

    I ended up with a lot less pulp–and a lot thinner pulp–than it appears in the pictures, so I decided to add 6 c of sugar instead of 7 c. It took over 2 hours to cook down, and I ended up with about 8.5 *half-pints* of delicious ketchup.

    I’m not sure why my yield was so low. Slicing tomatoes instead of romas? Should I have added more tomatoes after they slumped when I stirred in the salt? In any case, I’ll probably do this again but I’ll make one/both of these changes, because it’s a lot of work for only a few half-pints.


  4. Ethan Edwards

    Your experience is pretty close to mine. The exact consistency varies quite a bit with the water and the solidity of the tomatoes used. Roma tomatoes don’t shrink quite as much since they have more pulp, but even with Romas, you’re going to find that the volume of actual pulp is 1/2 or less of what you start with. But then, slicing tomatoes are generally sweeter than Romas and so I have adjusted the sugar also according to the tomatoes used. (And to answer you question, the 5 gallon measure is of the raw tomatoes after you cut them up but before the salt is added). I try to get as many tomatoes into the batch as possible…by loading my measures and also cutting the tomatoes into quarters so they pack tighter.

    Probably the reduction in sugar caused you to cook them down at the end for two full hours. I usually cook the pulp/sugar/vinegar for what ends up being 1.5 hours by the time you get the jars ready and everything. Because of the effort, I usually make double the quantity…it’s not that much more work if you have enough tomatoes and two big containers.

    I’m glad you tried it and enjoyed it. There’s nothing quite like it.


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