|Label for Jacob's Crazy Good Ketchup|
A little background is in order before I describe the ketchup: For a while now, Jacob has been growing and selling tomatoes and other produce at the local farmer's market as a means of funding his Eagle Scout project. And for years, he and his mom would process and can their extra produce to make sauces and marmalades, and enter them in the NC State Fair cooking competitions (to much success, I may add). Last year, Jacob decided to try his hand at making ketchup using the extra tomatoes he had. He entered his recipe in the State Fair competition, and came home with a first place blue ribbon! With the help of his family and friends, and with the valuable information he's learning as a member of Future Farmers of America while in high school, Jacob is in the process of bringing his product to market. But instead of turning over production to a commercial co-packer (bottler), Jacob and his mom are doing the work themselves at the Eastern Carolina Food Ventures Incubator Kitchen, which is part of James Sprunt College. By taking this hands-on approach, not only are they able to ensure that their recipe is followed to a T and that the freshest, highest quality locally-sourced ingredients are used, but also that each batch of ketchup meets their exacting standards before being bottled.
Now for the ketchup itself: My sample bottle didn't include a list of ingredients, but Mrs. Picky did tell me that Jacob's Crazy Good Ketchup is made with real tomatoes (not commercial tomato paste), apple cider vinegar, white pepper, and absolutely NO corn syrup or artificial ingredients. You can actually see the little bits of herbs and spices in the ketchup (unlike commercial mass-produced ketchups), and the color is more of a brick red instead of bright fire-engine red. The texture is thick and very smooth, not at all gritty or watery or thin, and perfect for pouring--and staying--on burgers and sandwiches. The aroma is full of tomato goodness, like homemade tomato soup simmering on the stove. And the flavor: Unlike any other ketchup I've tasted, and indeed crazy-good! While I'm usually not a fan of overly-sweet ketchups--and Jacob's ketchup is sweet, but NOT overly so--this ketchup doesn't have the tell-tale cloying flavor of corn syrup. I'm guessing from the flavor that Jacob is using honey instead, which would also account for the subtly floral flavor notes and the brick red color. The cider vinegar provides just the slightest hint of tang, while the spices and seasonings add depth of flavor and keep the ketchup from being too sweet. Jacob's Crazy Good Ketchup tasted terrific on my veggie burger, and I'm pretty sure it would delicious on regular hamburgers as well as other typical ketchup foods: Fries, onion rings, omelets & scrambled eggs, etc. Its flavor would also work quite well in recipes that call for ketchup, like meatloaf, sloppy joes, baked beans and the like, and I'm looking forward to playing with my sample in the kitchen.
Jacob's Crazy Good Ketchup isn't on the market yet--in fact, it's my understanding that the first batch is being made this weekend at the Eastern Carolina Incubator Kitchen. But when it is, I predict that it will do quite well. Be on the lookout for this all-natural, North Carolina ketchup made by an inspirational young man and his mom, and if you try it please leave a comment to let us know how you like it!
PS: If you live in the Eastern part of NC and are interested in starting a food business, you may want to consider Eastern Carolina Food Ventures Incubator Kitchen located in Warsaw, NC. This regional, shared-use commercial incubator kitchen was established as a collaborative effort of James Sprunt Community College, Duplin County, and Pender County. Its mission is to help food entrepreneurs create new food businesses, grow existing food businesses and provide workforce development in order to create new jobs and bolster economic development in eastern NC, a historically depressed area. For more information, check out their website.
PPS: If you're a fellow ketchup fanatic and enjoy spicy ketchup, you can find all three flavors of Melinda's Spicy Ketchups (Jalapeno, Habanero and Smoky Chipotle) on our Mustards & Ketchups page--and they're all-natural, Kosher, and full of flavor with peppery heat!