The Saucy History of Ketchup

Tom Blank of Weird History Food looks into the saucy history of ketchup, noting that its original recipe from ancient Southeast Asia called for no tomatoes whatsoever.

The first reference of what would eventually become ketchup occurred somewhere around 300 BC in early Southeast Asia. Ancient texts documented the use of fermented paste, made not from tomatoes, but from soybeans, fish entrails, and meat byproducts….This fish paste was called ge-thcup or koe-cheup.

Blank further explains the various iterations of the condiment as it traveled across Asia and Europe before hitting North America, where tomatoes were introduced in 1812.

…a Philadelphia scientist and horticulturalist named James Mease used tomatoes in the recipe for the first time. Mease’s recipe was the first to call for tomatoes-…And since tomatoes are native to North America, Mease’s recipe helped to solidify what we now know as classic ketchup.

Only when J.H. Heinz got involved did ketchup (or catsup) become a household name.

Heinz was the first to use riper tomatoes, which resulted in higher quantities of natural pectin. This combined with the use of more vinegar and sugar made Heinz brand ketchup the reddest, freshest, and tastiest ketchup you could buy. Heinz also wanted to prove that he had nothing to hide with this unpopular form of ketchup, so he pioneered the use of glass bottles.Customers were able to see what they were buying for the first time.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

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