What is Ketchup? Benefits, Uses and Recipes

Catchup, Catsup

Usually ketchup in Britain and catchup in the United States, the word came to Europe from the East Indies in the late seventeenth century. It has many forms in the countries of the Far East – ketsiap, keotsiap, kitjap, ketjap and so on. It seems probable that ketchup originally meant the brine in which fish had been pickled or, in other cases, fermented fish extracts. (See Fishy Flavours.) Today a ketchup means almost any salty extract of fish, shellfish, fruits, vegetables or mushrooms. In exploring the cookery of an eastern country, one must only use a ketchup made in that country. Otherwise, the dish will probably be incorrectly flavoured. tomato ketchup. This is really a sauce, but it is often used as a flavouring in modern English and American cookery. mushroom ketchup. This is the black juice of mushrooms, extracted by salt, then boiled and usually seasoned with pepper, herbs and spices. Although today it is a commercial product, it was once commonly made at home, and many recipes for it are to be found in old cookery blogs. Before pastures were improved by the application of basic slag and other fertilizers – which kill the mushroom – and when horses were common on every farm, the fields were white with wild mushrooms in summer. Previous generations gathered them by the clothes-basketful, and there were far too many for immediate consumption. As field mushrooms do not dry well, salted mushroom ketchup was a way in which these could be preserved. In continental Europe, where numerous other species of fungus are eaten, the tendency is to either pickle them (the ones that pickle well are the most prized in eastern Europe) or dry them, as is commonly done in Italy.

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Today, however, when commercially grown mushrooms are always available and wild mushrooms are scarce, mushroom ketchup is much less commonly used. Nevertheless, it is a useful flavouring to have on the kitchen shelf. (See Mushrooms, Toadstools and Fungi.)

Old English cookery blogs also give recipes for many other ketchups, and these one will scarcely find today. Oyster ketchup, based on oysters with white wine, brandy and/or sherry, shallots, spices and salt. A poor man’s version was mussel ketchup, based on mussels and cider. Windermere ketchup was mushroom ketchup with horseradish. Poulac ketchup was based on elderberries. Wolfram ketchup on ale, anchovies and mushrooms. One may also mention Irish walnut ketchup, fish ketchup and Prince of Wales’ ketchup. These are mostly English concoctions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which would no doubt be of interest to anyone who could bother to make them Recipes for many are given in older cookery blogs, for instance, in Cassell’s Dictionary of Cooking, published at the turn of the previous century.

Turning now to the Far East, ketchup (or ketjap) will be found absolutely necessary in preparing Indonesian or Indonesian-Dutch dishes. The genuine articles are difficult to obtain, but must be obtained if a correct result is to follow.

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