Are you ready for a savory taste sensation on your burger unlike any ketchup you’ve had?
When I had the idea for a fermented “Caribbean” banana ketchup, it was just one of my weird ideas. But as with just about everything, it turned out that it IS a thing and so while my originality points went down some, I was happy to see that my idea wasn’t totally bonkers and that it could be something quite tasty!
I’ve even found Caribbean banana ketchup products and recipes (which apparently get their sour from vinegar, not fermentation), but it seems that it is most common in the Philippines.
That said, the first European exposure to “ketchup” was a thin, savory, condiment in China and most likely was in part or principally a fermented fish sauce. (It was first referred to in English as a “high East-India sauce,” at a time when “East-India” was the name given to Asia and Southeast Asia.)
The earliest British recipe for ketchup was in 1732. Meanwhile, tomatoes are from the Americas, not Asia, and hadn’t really made their way overseas yet. So these British sauces were not so similar to what we consider ketchup today either, and consisted of other ingredients – especially mushrooms, and sometimes oysters, anchovies and other savory components – to try to emulate or draw from the Asian condiment.
Although today “ketchup” is basically synonymous with the sweet tomato paste we all know and love, there are certainly cultures and recipes that use other ingredients to make a savory sauce to complement meats and other dishes. Seeing the history, we can now understand how this is possible.
Enter banana ketchup. In the Philippines, it is often dyed red but typically contains no tomato. Undyed, it has a brownish color, which makes sense when you think about what happens to bananas as they ripen.
I would never consider adding artificial color or otherwise changing the natural color of my ketchup. Also, my recipe is a ferment, which I have yet to see out there (recipe or product wise). So I’m happy to say today’s recipe is going to give you something really unique, even if we are still going to call it ketchup.
So with no further ado, let’s do this.
The recipe is for a quart jar mash ferment. (Meaning all the items are blended together with salt before fermentation rather than submerged in a saltwater brine.) It produces almost 15 oz. of ketchup, or nearly 3 woozy bottles. For a larger quantity, just double the recipe and use a half-gallon jar.
You will need:
- Quart jar
- Measuring cups & spoons
- Citrus juicer
- Kitchen gloves (for deseeding hot peppers – optional)
- Fermentation lid
- Spice grinder or mortar & pestle
- Optional: plastic wrap or silicone cutout to cover the mash to prevent contact with air
- Optional: kitchen scale for determining weight of mash
- Optional: medium saucepan & wooden spoon for cooking the ketchup
- Optional: bottling funnel if using sauce bottles for storage
- 5-6 bananas (or consider substituting with 5 plantains, or a mix)
- 6 orange or red habaneros (more or less depending on heat preference)
- 2 TBSP additive-free salt (or 5% of weight of the total mash). Note: This is quite salty but is a protective measure against mold/oxidation associated with bananas. As desired, try 4% salt or 1 TBSP+2tsp salt.
- ~8 cloves garlic, halved
- Nub of ginger, ~15g, sliced
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 tsp Jamaican curry
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp grains of paradise, ground
- 1/4 tsp allspice, ground
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 8-10 cloves, ground (or you can find it pre-ground here, use 1/4 tsp)
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp coriander
1.) In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth. (As needed, weigh the mash to determine how many grams of salt needed for a 5% mash. Otherwise, just add 2 TBSP additive-free salt and blend in.)
2.) Transfer the salted mash to fermentation vessel and apply the fermentation lid or other lid. (Note: Because banana is very prone to oxidation, and more prone to mold than pepper mash ferments, covering the surface of the mash with plastic wrap or a silicone cutout is recommended. Another technique can be to evenly distribute a small amount of white vinegar over the surface of the mash.) If no fermentation lid is used, remember to periodically “burp” the jar.
3.) A ferment time of around 2 to 3 weeks is recommended to achieve a nice, low pH but retain some of the natural sugars in the banana. You may notice the surface of the mash has darkened in spite of any covering used, which is normal. The mash will also separate out between its solids and liquids, with the liquid settling to the bottom.
4.) Blending: once you decide to cease fermenting, there are a couple options.
Raw sauce: Blend the fermented mash on high for 5-10 minutes to create a smooth, even consistency and flavor. Bottle and refrigerate. In this instance, the mash will continue to ferment at a slow rate in the fridge. This will entail the sauce continuing to lose sweetness, change in flavor, and drop in pH.
Cooked sauce: Transfer the full contents of the mash to a saucepan. Set to high heat and mix evenly with a wooden spoon. When the ketchup begins to boil, cover and set heat to low. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Return the cooked sauce to a blender and blend on high for five minutes. Bottle and refrigerate.
Although a cooked sauce no longer has the living, healthy probiotic bacteria appealing to so many fermenters, some prefer to cook their fermented hot sauces for a few reasons. One is that it locks in flavor. Another benefit is that it smoothes and enhances the texture. It also melds the various flavors and mellows some of the sharper flavors such as that from the garlic.
Want to support the continued development of this ad-free, cookies-free site and help with my dream of selling my own line of fermented products and sauces? Become a Patron! or make a one-time donation!