Caribbean Banana Ketchup

 

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:

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

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.


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12 Comments

  1. What about using turmeric to make the color pop in the banana ketchup

     
    • Daniel Berke

      There is turmeric in Jamaican curry and I didn’t want to overdo it as it already has a strong spice flavor. However, substituting more turmeric with one of the other spices or just adding it in is totally an option if you’d like to.

       
  2. Is the citrus acid going to retard the fermentation?

     
  3. Wesley Bratton

    I have to say this is over the top amazing. I’ve yet to find what this on NOT good on. Daniel, you hit it out of the park with this one.

    Some notes; make sure the bananas are good and ripe. Try to use squeeze bottles for this. It’s pretty hard to pour out of a woozy bottle.

     
    • I’m so happy you like it! I was just wondering yesterday if anyone ever makes this and what they think. It’s definitely different but I like it too. Was curious how long you fermented it? Thanks for being in touch!

       
  4. Wesley Bratton

    I went with your recommendation with the longer ferment, 6 weeks. I also went with cooking it. I think it’s definitely better that way. I’d also like to add that mine came out really thick. I was tempted to add some water but afraid it might dilute it. I might try adding rum the next time.

     
    • Yes, totally agree it’s a thicker sauce but bear in mind that it is a ketchup. In the future if you’d like to thin it, I recommend vinegar. Water will raise the pH which will ultimately reduce the shelf life.

       
  5. Hey Daniel! I just started fermented two batches of this, 1) with higher % chilis in the mix, and 2) with higher % banana in the mix – really excited to see how they come out!

    I’m thinking about doing them cooked and adding additional sugar prior to the boil in order to bring out some more of the sweeter notes to counteract the heat.

    I was curious, do you have an estimate on shelf-life? I’ve got a ph meter and am going to be shooting for below 4.0 – if it isn’t there yet after 2 weeks I’ll probably let it go a bit longer.

    Thanks and love the blog!

    Best,
    AJ

     
    • Thanks so much. I don’t have an exact on the shelf life other than to say I’ve always used mine up before it went bad, but I had it in the fridge for months on end with no change observed whatsoever. Thanks for being in touch and keep me posted!

       
  6. Brooke Brochue

    I would like to mail some of this to my Mom, packages usually take about a week to get there. Do you think it’ll be safe to eat after that amount of time out of refrigeration?

     
    • It would most likely be fine but to be safe you could place the bottles in a pot of steaming water at 160 for ten minutes and then bring to 180 for two minutes, then invert the bottles as soon as they’re pulled from the pot. That’ll pasteurize them, making re-fermentation impossible. Doing so can affect flavor, not in a bad way per se but cooked is different than raw.

       

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