It all begins with tons of tomato paste that is mixed and heated together with sugar, vinegar, and spices in a cooking kettle. After cooking, any remaining fibers and particles are filtered out. Once it reaches the right viscosity, your tomato ketchup production process is finished and ready for packaging and transport.
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Converting fresh tomatoes into a tomato paste
The first thing you need is tomato paste. It’s usually bought as an ingredient due to the seasonal nature of tomatoes. But, if you are processing the paste too, fresh tomatoes first need to be washed in rotating drums, sorted and cut them into smaller pieces. To remove the tomato seeds and the skin from the pulp, the tomatoes must go through a pulping machine and then the resulting pulp has to be filtered through screens. Tomatoes then go to a hot break treatment unit which involves heating them at a processing temperature of 90˚C or higher. The hot break step is a core process for enzymatic inactivation to preserve the pectin.
Ketchup – The Asian’s origin you don’t expect
Kê-tsiap, that’s the original name of our beloved table condiment, comes from southern China, and, here ye, at first it was tomato-free. It was a sauce made with fermented fish. After a long journey through England and America, the recipe of the tomato-based ketchup we know came to us. But how is it made?
From paste to ketchup – what equipment is required?
Tomato paste arrives vacuum-packed in large storage bins, ready for further processing. After quality control, and making sure there are no residual tomato seeds, you can move it to a cooking kettle for a second heating treatment where you can add different spices, vinegar and sugar. An industrial cooker mixes all the ingredients and heats them to the desired temperature. The ketchup mixture is filtered to remove fibers and particles and a homogenizer is then used to achieve the right consistency. A de-aerator can help you to get rid of the air stuck into the tomato ketchup which reduces the risk of bacterial growth and discoloration. Before moving to a filling line a final check is done on the viscosity in order to make sauce with the perfect texture.
A viscometer to analyse your ketchup's consistency
Have you ever noticed that if you turn a bottle of ketchup upside down nothing happens unless you shake it? Ketchup is made of tomato pieces suspended in a liquid that, by touching each other, create a network that can resist motion as long as you apply the right amount of force to it to make it flow. With a viscometer you can analyze how fast the ketchup travels and what is the viscosity. Studies have shown that the correct flow speed is 0.045 km/h or 0.028 miles/hour.
Using a hot fill solution for your ketchup bottles
Before filling, ketchup should be heated to no less than 88°C to avoid contamination. During the hot filling, both the product and the container are sterilized by heat. Hot ketchup is injected into a container that is then kept at high temperatures for a period of time to ensure that there are no bacteria in the food or in the packaging. After hot filling, ketchup should be cooled immediately to preserve the taste and flavor. Although hot filling of ketchup is considered safe for the shelf life, some manufacturers choose to perform a pasteurization process (another heating treatment) at 85-88°C.
Cap and close your ketchup bottles after filling
You can choose to pack your ketchup in pouches, sachets, tubes, or bottles and it’s important to close your package quickly after filling to avoid contamination or spilling. Capping or other closing systems such as seals are often installed in the same filling system. When filling glass or plastic bottles containers in line, crew caps, lug caps or snap-on are placed after filling up to the desired weight or height.