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Who Invented Ketchup?

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Pretty much everyone loves ketchup, and it’s been with us for a while, although we wouldn’t recognize its earlier taste and form.

Ketchup are popular

We eat it on our fries and the Japanese smother their rice in it. It’s thought that an ice cream manufacturer even touted a ketchup flavored ice cream! More than 95% of US households have this tomato-based condiment in their cupboards, but how did it become so universally popular? How come we can’t contemplate a burger and fries without it?

The Compleat Housewife by Eliza SmithCookbook recipe written by Eliza Smith, The Compleat Housewife or Accomplish’d Gentlewoman’s Companion, published in 1727.

How it all started?

It started in the 1600s when British and Dutch sailors brought back a salty fish sauce called “ketsiap” from their travels to China. This sauce was more like soy sauce than our modern day sweet and tangy tomato version. Lots of different recipes and spellings developed. Some British versions included mushrooms, anchovies, walnuts and oysters, and mushroom ketchup can still be found in a few British delicatessen shops. In 1690, the word “catchup” appeared in print, followed by the now familiar word “ketchup” in 1711.

First ketchup recipe

The world’s first ketchup recipe was published in Eliza Smith’s “The Compleat Housewife” (1727). The recipe needed shallots, anchovies, vinegar, white wine, lemon peel, pepper and sweet spices (nutmeg, mace, cloves and ginger). In 1813, came the first tomato-based ketchup recipe, written in Nova Scotia by American expat James Mease. He referred to it as “love apple” ketchup and claims the recipe has a French background to make it seem classier. There is no proof that ketchup’s influenced by French cooking, though.

Mushrooms vs tomatoes

Different recipes appeared occasionally, mainly mushrooms in the UK and tomatoes in the US. In 1830 a New England farmer started selling it in 50 cent bottles and Americans sold ketchup to Britain under the name of tomato chutney to differentiate it from the Brits’ mushroom ketchup.

The modern day ketchup we all love

By 1837, ketchup was sold across the US, due to the hard work of Jonas Yerkes, who sold it in pints and quarts. He used the by-products of the tomato canning industry, rinds, cores and green tomatoes, and added lots of sugar and vinegar. The big breakthrough for ketchup came at the 1872 Philadelphia Fair when HJ Heinz introduced its version, and this benchmark formula is the same nearly 150 years later.

The quality of ketchup was poor

Some ketchup makers were criticized for dodgy manufacturing habits. Some used coal tar to enhance the redness of the sauce and some used concentrated tomato pulp that wasn’t stored safely. In the early 1900s, the Pure Food and Drug Act issued strict guidelines to ketchup makers. Even today, the FDA has tight rules on what ketchup actually is, right down to the spices and consistency.

The Reagan’s administration

The variations of ketchup’s name have included katsup, catsup and catchup, but when the Reagan administration tried to get ketchup listed as a vegetable in 1981, Del Monte, out of the loop with its own Catsup changed its name to fit in. Ketchup wasn’t classified as a vegetable after all, but there are now virtually no makers of catsup – only ketchup.

Ketchup are good for your health

The good thing about ketchup is that it has a few health benefits. The high levels of lycopene offer protection against cancer. The downside is that these benefits are often cancelled out by the food under the ketchup – fries and burgers – so think on!

More on ketchup: Who invented the hamburger?