Joey and I fell in love at Blake’s Lotaburger in Santa Fe. Since then, we’ve had a thing for unexpected hamburgers. We search them out, critique them, and drive long distances for them. That night at Blake’s was the first time Joey held my hands over a plastic table while our names were shouted over the loudspeaker, but it was certainly not the last.
Joey has a food talent of his own, and I am not the only one who gets emergency food calls. If you are looking for that really good diner you heard about years ago, you’re calling Joey. He’s passionate about his road food, and I am passionate about my homemade food, and some people assume that this is a difference between us. It’s just not true. I have had to win him over when it comes to homemade food, but I was actually a road-food lover before I ever set eyes on Joey.
There is a roadside burger stand in New Milford, Connecticut, with barely a sign to mark it. You never know when it will be open, but Clamp’s is worth the drive. Joey found it at the end of a cross-country odyssey, and after taking a bite of his perfect burger with caramelized onions, he resolved to get me there. A year later, we stole an August afternoon and headed over the state line, and as I sunk into bliss with my burger, I snuck a peek at him sitting on the other side of that plastic table. He was just watching me.
“Every time I eat a really good burger, I think about you.”
Dates like this make marriage feel possible.
This search for the ideal burger is a quest that Joey and I are on together. Sometimes Joey takes me to places like Clamp’s. Other nights I bake buns in our kitchen—we make patties from local beef, and we chop up a few of Joey’s pickles. Then…I make condiments.
This ketchup uses every spice on your rack, but it’s worth it. Adjust the spice to your own liking and make a big batch to can or freeze. If you’re searching for that perfect burger, with the right condiments, it might be on your own table.
Makes 4 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion (1 large)
5 garlic cloves, minced
6 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cored, or three 28-ounce cans tomatoes, drained
3 teaspoons kosher salt, plus additional to taste
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder, plus additional to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar, homemade or store-bought
1 tablespoon honey
1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute, while stirring.
2. Add the tomatoes, salt, paprika, cinnamon, cloves, celery salt, cumin, dry mustard, chili powder, and ground pepper and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
3. Blend until smooth with an immersion blender or transfer the mixture to an upright blender in two batches and puree until smooth. If transferred, return the mixture to the pot.
4. Add the vinegars, brown sugar, and honey. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, stirring often, until the ketchup thickens, about 30 minutes. Adjust salt, pepper, and chili powder to taste.
Fridge in a covered container for 2 weeks.
Freezer in a freezer-safe container for 6 months (thaw in refrigerator and whisk to re-emulsify).
Excerpted from The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila. Copyright © 2012 by Alana Chernila. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission from the publisher.