I’ll be the first to admit that COVID social distancing has caused me to do some weird stuff…I’ve learned about paw paws and foraged for them and made several batches of muffins, I’ve made life-changing lemon muffins from yellow squash, I’ve painted a section of my living room purple, I got a cat…I could go on. Perhaps the strangest so far, to me, is autumn olives. I first heard about autumn olives about a month ago on a Facebook foraging group that a friend added me to after I started getting weird. That post took me down a couple hours-long Google hole as I researched all about autumn olives and what you can do with them. I decided I was going to try foraging for autumn olives and make ketchup!
One of the things I learned is that autumn olives are best after it has hard-frosted. Lucky for me <<sarcasm>> I live in the part of NY where it frosts early (but then gets to be 80 degrees during the day so you never know how to dress!). After three nights of frost, I figured it was time to go look for some autumn olives. I had heard there were a bunch growing down by the lake. I laced up my walking shoes and headed out on my quest. It’s beautiful by our lake – check out this funky driftwood lean-to I walked by. Even cooler, it had a Little Lending Library next to it…in the middle of nowhere…so super cool!
After about a half mile, I found some! Keep in mind, I had never seen an autumn olive before…I just had a couple of photos from the internet to search with. This is an autumn olive tree:
My recipe said I needed 4 cups of autumn olive pulp for ketchup, so I picked about 4 cups or so of autumn olives. It took me about a half hour. After that, I decided it was so gorgeous, I should get my 3 miles in for the day. I have to tell you I jumped off this bridge at least 1,000 times when I was a kid, and I camped in the park across from the autumn olives stash every summer. The lighthouse wasn’t there, but it’s a great addition!
Feeling absolutely fantastic and accomplished, I headed home to make ketchup!
So the first step to making ketchup is to run the autumn olives through a food mill. I don’t have a food mill, so I simmered them for about 3 minutes with a little water and smooshed them through a sieve. It’s easy!
A note about those seeds: autumn olives are INVASIVE. Don’t put them in your compost! Put them in the garbage to be disposed of.
Then, I learned a hard lesson. 4 cups of autumn olive berries only makes 1 cup of autumn olive pulp. Dang it. I’m 3 cups short! I have to go back out and pick more autumn olives. You can also use this break time to deal with anything else life might have thrown at you while you’re boondoggling weird foraging skills…for example, the dead red squirrel your cat left for you in the living room.
Ok, squirrel disposed of, another hour picking autumn olives…I’m feeling kind of “over” this experiment of mine. Nevertheless, she persisted.
Once you have your 4 cups of autumn olive pulp from 10-12 cups of autumn olive berries, you add maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, salt, and a sachet of cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, mustard seed, and onion. This simmers until it’s ketchup consistency. It’s beautiful.
It took about 30 minutes of simmering for me to get a fantastic, rich ketchup consistency. Once that’s done, you pop it into jars…or, in my case, jar. Yes, after 2 hours of sweating in the sun picking autumn olives, squishing them, and cooking them, I got 1 small jar of ketchup. However, that jar is filled with DELICIOUSNESS! It doesn’t taste like Heinz ketchup…it tastes like bougie, artisan ketchup! When my husband tried it, he said, “I guess this is our ketchup from now on!”
Would I do this again if I wasn’t stuck in social distancing isolation? Maybe. It really is fantastic! But, the picking is a lot of work. Those berries are tiny! However, if I had a minion or a friend to help pick, I would definitely make it again!
Want to try it for yourself? Here’s the recipe I used with some notes:
Autumn Olives Ketchup
- 4 cups autumn olive berry puree
- 1/2 onion
- 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seed
- 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice berries
- 1/2 stick cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- Make autumn olive puree; you can simmer the berries with a small amount of water until soft (about 3 minutes) and squish them through a sieve OR put them through a Foley Food Mill
- Place autumn olive puree in a crockpot with no lid and gently simmer until reduced by half (note: I didn’t do this step, I just skipped to the next one)
- Put the puree in a medium sauce pan; tie onion and spices in a spice bag and add to the puree, along with the sea salt, vinegar, and maple syrup
- Continue cooking until thick like ketchup – about 30 minutes. Stir frequently so you don’t scorch the puree