Every year, on one of those first, early, beautiful days of spring, my family enjoys our first wood-grilled burgers of the season. Sometimes the urge arrives on a wafting charcoal breeze, others the weather report, with the promise of unseasonal balm. A little of both inspired the early unveiling of the Weber Kettle this year. The ingredient that provided the final impetus was a new product: ketchup from Local Folks Foods of Sheridan, Indiana.
Offered online at Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks, the Local Folks ketchup is sweetened without the ubiquitous, government-subsidized corn syrup. Bright red, in a BBQ sauce-shaped bottle, it beckoned from my countertop after arriving in my weekly Thursday delivery from Fresh Picks. The ground beef was from our monthly CSA delivery from Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm, the buns from Treasure Island, onions, cheese from Brunkow and lettuce from Wind n Oak Farm in Manhattan, IL. A testament to its deliciousness: the devouring of it by my very picky son. What about the ketchup?
There are a handful of products for which I’ve had a hard time to find a local substitute: most significantly, Hellman’s mayonnaise (yes, there’s homemade, but who makes it for a tablespoon or two in a recipe) and Heinz ketchup. There’s something about their formulas that is standard, comforting and just plain right, at least in terms of their flavor profiles. Ketchup has been particularly troublesome. While I’ve made plenty of homemade ketchups and catsups (including a mean and versatile red pepper version) none could capture the elusive spirit of the old 57, particularly the organic version made with real sugar. This is why I was particularly impressed by the Local Folks Foods ketchup. I mentioned earlier the true rose red color of it. The flavor is delicious and really quite close to the ideal, at least my ideal – Heinz. Piquant, yet rich; sweet, with a perfect counterpoint of salinity. My only small criticism is that it could be a touch thicker. Where as the Heinz needs that perfect tap to the 57 to flow freely, Local Folks pours like a river. A minor complaint when leveled at a small company selling an artisanal product that can stand toe to toe with an icon.