It’s red and it certainly looks like it comes from tomatoes, but is ketchup really made from these red savory salad favorites? Let’s find out together.
The Short Answer:
Yes, most ketchup is a tomato product, but ketchup can be made without tomatoes.
The Long Answer:
Typically, when we think of ketchup, we think of those red bottles lining the condiment section of the grocery store. What we’re thinking of in these moments is tomato ketchup, and it is by far the most common variety of this condiment.
Tomato ketchup is made from tomatoes, obviously, but that’s not the only ingredient that goes into them. Vinegar is a huge ingredient, as is various forms of sugar. Typically, ripe tomatoes are squeezed into a pulp and added to fine salt. That mixture is then boiled and stirred before being pressed through a fine sieve. After that, various sugars and spices are added to taste. This new mixture is boiled again over a slow fire until thick and bottled when cold. The vinegar is added to prevent spoilage.
Typically, it takes 100 tomatoes for five bottles of tomato ketchup.
While that might be the most commonly known form of ketchup, it’s not the only variation out there. The term ketchup does not inherently mean tomato ketchup. Originally, at the product’s inception, tomatoes weren’t used at all and the term ketchup meant a vinegary sauce bought in a bottle.
Some of the oldest known ketchup recipes are walnut ketchup and mushroom ketchup. Mushroom ketchup was typically prepared in the United Kingdom around the 18th Century. For a period of 100 years, (1750 to 1850) ketchup typically meant a sauce made from mushrooms or walnuts and was associated with a dark color.
While not hugely popular today, mushroom ketchup is still readily available in the UK. Some other variations of ketchup from around the world include mango ketchup and even banana ketchup. In the UK, ketchup is still commonly referred to as “tomato ketchup” because those other variations still exist in some way, shape, or form.
Europeans first encountered ketchup in either China or Indonesia. At the time, it was a briny pickled fish sauce and contained no vinegar at all. The closest modern relative of early ketchup would be soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce. When British and Dutch explorers returned home, they did not have the necessary ingredients to re-create traditional Asian ketchup, so they substituted ingredients that were readily available, like mushrooms, walnuts, and even anchovies.
Are you a fan of tomato ketchup? Have you ever tried mushroom ketchup? Sound off in the comment section below and let us know!