Pete and I had blueberry ketchup for the first time a few months ago when we were checking out a new restaurant. The place had been getting mostly lousy reviews on Yelp, but I figured they just needed some time to work out the kinks. And they had 72 beers on tap. Seventy-two!!
The deep fried-cheese curds with blueberry ketchup were the one menu item that was consistently mentioned as good, if not great, on Yelp. Both Pete and I usually stay away from anything breaded and deep-fried, but we arrived at a busy time, had to wait at the bar for a table, and, unfortunately, were starving. Okay, let’s get an appetizer.
For a vegetarian, the sucky thing about appetizers at this type of restaurant is pretty much all of the options either contain meat or they’re deep-fried. Being as hungry as I was, in a weak moment, I suggested we order the deep-fried cheese curds with blueberry ketchup to go with our drinks. Maybe Pete, with his strong commitment to healthy eating, would say no, it’s deep fried—don’t want that. But he didn’t. And we ordered them. And they were good. Really, really good. Especially the blueberry ketchup!
We couldn’t finish the cheese curds, and when the bartender took away our by then cold basket with a puddle of grease on the bottom, I secretly wanted to grab the little cup that still had some delicious, once-foreign-to-me blueberry ketchup in it to take home. But I didn’t. And we haven’t been back because once we were seated and got our food, it was lackluster at best. The Yelp reviews are still lousy and we’ve pretty much forgotten about the place.
The blueberry ketchup wasn’t forgotten though. Now that local blueberries are available at the farmers market, I decided to look for a recipe. I settled on this one from Serious Eats, which sounded pretty close to that amazing flavor I remembered, but it needed some smokiness, so I added a little chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. Bingo!
Now that I have this wonderful new condiment, how am I going to use it? We certainly aren’t going to make deep-fried cheese curds. But a couple days before I made the ketchup, it came to me in my sleep (seriously, does that happen to anyone else??), Smokey Blueberry Ketchup Pizza with Fresh Cheese Curds! I couldn’t get it out of my mind and stopped at the store that day after work to pick up a bag of Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery cheese curds, made in the city of Ellsworth, the Wisconsin Cheese Curd Capital. And we all know the state of Wisconsin is the Cheese Capitol of the United States, so I knew they would be the best of the best.
Of course there are endless other uses for my now favorite condiment. On grilled vegetables or burgers, with fries, grilled cheese dipping, even on ice-cream for a sweet-savory treat–the list goes on. But the pizza was one I’ll definitely make again and can’t wait to share with others. Use a homemade or store-bought whole-wheat dough, the blueberry ketchup as pizza sauce, some sautéed spinach, chopped onion, veggie sausage (totally optional, and regular Italian sausage would be tasty for non-vegetarians), and the best fresh cheese curds you can find. On to the ketchup recipe—enjoy!
Smokey Blueberry Ketchup
Adapted from this recipe on Serious Eats
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium shallot, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root
1 medium garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced, and include both sauce and peppers
1 pound fresh blueberries
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Heat oil over medium heat in a medium sauce. Add in shallot and cook until softened, but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add in ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and stir to combine.
Add in blueberries, vinegar, brown sugar, and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 30-45 minutes. At this point, if you like it chunky, you’re done, but if you want a smooth, more ketchup-like texture, blend with an immersion blender or in a food processor, until smooth. Let cool to room temperature, pour into a jar and store in refrigerator. Keeps for 2-3 weeks.