Despite popular misconception, ketchup is no new commodity. Its history starts in the 1690s when the Chinese concocted a mixture of pickled fish and spices. They called this koe-chip, which literally means “the brine of pickled fish” (it’s come far, huh?). This sauce made its way to the tables of British explorers by the 18th century, when it traveled to Malay (nowadays called Malaysia). By then it had adopted a new name: kechap.
Not until sometime later did the tomato version appear. But that’s because people weren’t very fond of the tomato. Up until 1710, it wasn’t actually grown in the United States and even after was only planted for ornamental purposes. People didn’t eat it because the fruit looked nightshades, a poisonous cousin to the tomato plant.
The first modern day ketchup recipe wasn’t technically far off from today’s, but boy, did it have sodium. To fill 4 or 5 bottles, one would need 100 tomatoes and a pound and a half of salt, which is about 5 to 6 cups per bottle. Today, a bottle of ketchup has at most a few tablespoons of salt at most. But back then, they were adding it in large quantities because it was a preservative, allowing the condiment to be kept on the shelf for years.
In 1812, another recipe surfaced via publication in the magazine The Virginia Housewife, helping increase ketchup’s popularity. Curiously, people still didn’t eat raw tomatoes even after they’d stocked their pantry shelves with the condiment. Since the tomatoes had to actually be cooked to make ketchup, they were thought safe to consume.
Generally, it was sold locally by farmers until Jonas Yerkes came along. He produced and distributed the condiment nationally, paving the way for other companies, such as F.&J. Heinz, who launched their first tomato ketchup in 1876. Since then, its popularity has greatly spread (along with the consumption of raw tomatoes) and is now consumed all over the world. Fun Facts:
- Ketchup can also be used as a cleaning agent for copper. The acid it contains removes tarnish and makes copper shine like new.
- Ketchup is the most widely used condiment in US households, as a whopping 96% of them have it in their pantries.
- Ever wonder why you have a choice of fanciness? It’s really got nothing to do with sophistication – just how solid you want it.
- The average person consumes about three bottles of ketchup each year.
- Baskin Robbins tried to pull off a Ketchup flavored ice cream. Never heard this story? Yeah, that’s probably because it was discontinued shortly after its creation. Oh the shame.
- The spelling “catsup” appears first in 1730 via the pen of Jonathan Swift.
About the Author: Katie Straw
is the Gourmet Scribe at GourmetGiftBaskets.com, one of the top suppliers of gift baskets in the nation, and currently resides in Manchester, New Hampshire.