History of Ketchup: When Was Ketchup Invented?

Ketchup is part and parcel of almost every American dish nowadays, but despite its current links, ketchup wasn’t developed in the United States, and most of the history of ketchup didn’t have anything to do with tomatoes.

A History of Ketchup: When Was Ketchup Inventend?
A History of Ketchup: When Was Ketchup Invented?

The Chinese invention of ketchup

According to the earliest recipe documented in Chinese books, the ‘intestine, stomach, and bladder of the yellow fish, shark, and bullet are washed properly, mixed with a reasonable amount of salt, and placed in a securely sealed jar to incubate in the sun. It will be ready in 20 days in the summer, 50 days in the spring or fall, and 100 days in the winter.’

Soya and bean-based sauces grew popular in China over the next few centuries. Fish sauces, on the other hand, were popular in the south. Fish sauces spread over the region, including Thailand, Indonesia, and the Mekong River, which flows through modern Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Many dishes included salted and pickled anchovies. Local sauces made of fermented fish are still available, and in Indonesia, ketchup refers to the sauce. It is less clear how British traders became aware of the sauce.

Ingredients of Early Ketchup (China to England)

In 1711, British trader Charles Lockyer said that he’d observed vast numbers of Chinese commercial ships around the region and that the best ketchup came from Tonkin in northern Vietnam or China, as with many of the things England carried home. They rapidly adopted the product as their own. One of the first things the English did after discovering a 1736 recipe was to add beer. The recipe calls for boiling down two gallons of strong, stale beer and a half pad of anchovies, with the addition that the stronger and stale the beer, the better the ketchup.

Early catch-ups included everything from cherries to Easter, blackberries, mushrooms, and even walnuts.

For over a century, mushroom ketchup was popular in England, produced by mixing entire mushrooms in jars with salt; it is usually thin and practically black and has been characterized as somewhere between bad toshera-sauce and soya-sauce, with mushroom undercurrents.

Home made mushroom ketchup
Home-made mushroom ketchup

Ketchup served in various forms can range in viscosity from watery to the thicker variant more recognizable to modern diners. Jane Austen was a fan of walnut ketchup.

The only thing missing from early ketchup was tomatoes. Tomatoes are native to Western South America, and local people in Central and South America consume them.

Tomato Ketchup Invention

Sandy Addison is credited with the first appearance of tomato ketchup in 1801.

Another early tomato ketchup recipe appeared in an English book in 1817, and it still featured half a pound of anchovies, along with walnuts, mushrooms, and pudding in oyster ketchup.

Tomato ketchup was first produced in 1812 by James Meese, and Thomas Jefferson’s cousin Mary Randolph included a tomato recipe in her 1824 cookbook, “The Virginia Housewife.”

Prescription of Ketchup as Medicine

In 1834, Ohio physician John Cook Bennett said that tomatoes were a panacea that could treat diarrhoea, indigestion, jaundice, rheumatism, and even cholera, so he urged everyone to consume tomatoes in whatever form, even ketchup, as they were the most beneficial substance.

Example of a ketchup advertisement in the 1800s
Example of a ketchup advertisement in the 1800’s

Bennet claimed to have visited European clinics that prescribed tomatoes to ailing patients, but even if he was lying, he wasn’t the first to discuss the tomato’s potential medical benefits.

According to Thomas Jefferson, his friend Dr James Dis Aquaria believed that if people ate an abundance of these apples, they would never die.

Other doctors in the early 1800s said tomatoes could treat headaches and were beneficial against bilious diseases, and many eventually agreed with Bennett’s findings.

Bennett’s opinions were extensively publicized in American publications. In 1836, newspapers began claiming that the tomato treatment was effective.

When Ketchup Started Selling For Commercial Purposes

Jonas Europes may have been the first person to sell ketchup in bottles by the court and pint in 1837. Other producers followed suit. However, there were some issues with making enough ketchup to sell commercially.

Tomatoes, particularly in the north, have limited growing seasons, necessitating the preservation of tomato pulp that may be utilized all year.

With little regulation and a thoughtless mistake characteristic of the era, containers of stored tomato pulp would mold, yeast, spores, and germs got contaminated.

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration -Photograph, "Contaminated Ketchup"
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration -Photograph, “Contaminated Ketchup” Record Group 88 Still Pictures Identifier: 88-GB-2-C-342 Rediscovery Identifier: 22821

Some manufacturers solely created ketchup as a byproduct of tomato production; canning used leftover tomato fragments swept from the floor.

Ketchup was also frequently heated in copper tubs, which caused chemical reactions that rendered the condiment toxic. To compensate for these shortcomings, manufacturers added preservatives such as boric and salicylic acid to the ketchup, as well as coal tar to turn the yellowish material red.

In 1876, Heinz co-founded the F & J Heinz Company with his brother and a cousin. The first product was Heinz ketchup, which was initially released with the word “CATSUP.” At the time, neither spelling was conventional, but in the 1800s, British imports used the phrase “ketchup with a k.”

Ketchup - The_Boston_Cooking_School_magazine_of_culinary_science_and_domestic_economics_
Ketchup – The Boston Cooking School magazine of culinary science and domestic economics

While domestic American manufacturers chose “ketchup with a c”, it is parsley as a result of Heinz’s preference for “ketchup” over “cetchup’.

Heinz’s objective was to create consistency in quality products, and his usage of alum bark aided this purpose.

Tomato-based ketchup has gradually become the most common type of condiment in the United States and Europe. Heinz is now the best-selling ketchup brand in the United States. Do-it-yourself ketchup recipes have vanished with time, as nowadays ketchup is prepared on a commercial basis. And, at least in the United States, it’s difficult to conceive of ketchup as anything other than brilliant red and tomato-flavoured.

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Heinz Ketchup Advert
Old Ketchup Advert
Heinz Tomato Ketchup

Sources:
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/article/how-was-ketchup-invented#:~:text=Ketchup%20comes%20from%20the%20Hokkien,replicate%20the%20fermented%20dark%20sauce.
https://www.history.com/news/ketchup-surprising-ancient-history
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketchup
https://web.archive.org/web/20110720090200/http://www.heinz.com/our-company/about-heinz/history.aspx 

1 thought on “When Was Ketchup Invented?

  1. I always thought that the ketchup was delicious but to find that it was used as a medicine is totally incredible, it is very interesting to see how in the past many, if not any, methods were used to treat different diseases.

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