My Citizens, you are assuredly already aware of the unmitigated, perhaps even obsessive love, that the zesty sovereign known always as TFD holds for condiments!
Yet you may not be aware that the most ubiquitous condiment of them all – ketchup! – is in fact an ancient and noble recipe that is way, WAY more versatile than the insipid tomato version that is endemic to today’s kitchen!
Ketchup is, of course, a sauce used as a condiment. Originally, recipes used egg whites, mushrooms, oysters, mussels, or walnuts, among other ingredients, but now the unmodified term usually refers to tomato ketchup. Various other terms for the sauce include catsup, catchup (archaic), ketsup, red sauce, tomato sauce, or, specifically, mushroom ketchup or tomato ketchup.
Ketchup is a sweet and tangy sauce now typically made from tomatoes, sugar, and vinegar, with assorted seasonings and spices. The specific spices and flavors vary, but commonly include onions, allspice, coriander, cloves, cumin, garlic, and mustard; and sometimes include celery, cinnamon or ginger.
In the 17th century, the Chinese mixed a concoction of pickled fish and spices and called it (in the Amoy dialect) kôe-chiap or kê-chiap (鮭汁, Mandarin Chinese guī zhī, Cantonese gwai1 zap1) meaning the brine of pickled fish (鮭, salmon; 汁, juice) or shellfish.
By the early 18th century, the table sauce had arrived in the Malay states (present day Malaysia and Singapore), where English colonists first tasted it. The Malaysian-Malay word for the sauce was kicap or kecap (pronounced “kay-chap”). That word evolved into the English word “ketchup”. English settlers took ketchup with them to the American colonies.
The term Catchup was used in 1690 in the Dictionary of the Canting Crew, which was well acclaimed in North America. The spelling “catchup” may have also been used in the past.
In the United Kingdom, preparations of ketchup were historically and originally prepared with mushrooms as a primary ingredient, rather than tomatoes. Ketchup recipes began to appear in British and then American cookbooks in the 18th century.
In a 1742 London cookbook, the fish sauce had already taken on a very British flavor, with the addition of shallots and mushrooms. The mushrooms soon became the main ingredient, and from 1750 to 1850 the word ketchup began to mean any number of thin dark sauces made of mushrooms or even walnuts.
In the United States, mushroom ketchup dates back to at least 1770, and was prepared by British colonists in “English speaking colonies in North America”. In contemporary times, mushroom ketchup is available in the UK, although it is not a commonly used condiment.
In fact, cucumber ketchup was very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries as well, and it is well worth reviving – few things are as delicious on fish as this savory, spicy condiment of centuries past!
I’ve updated the classic recipe with a bit of wasabi and a hint of natural green food coloring, but otherwise it is my authentic take on the flavors and spicing of yesteryear – I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, my Citizens! 😀
Battle on – The Generalissimo