From Imperial China to 97 percent of American homes -
Published Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 5:18 pm
From Imperial China to 97 percent of American homes

Ketchup might be our favorite condiment. It’s in 97 percent of American homes, and it’s maybe the only sauce in your fridge that dates back to imperial China.

Here’s a look at ketchup from its early origins to its current spot on our burgers and fries:

The precursor to ketchup wasn’t made of tomatoes but fish. It was a fermented paste of fish entrails, soybeans and other meat products. The sauce was called “ge-thcup” or “koe-cheup” in a Chinese dialect. It was popular among traders and sailors. Eventually, British traders brought it back to England.

A book, “Compleat Housewife,” published in 1727, contained the first English reference to “katchop.” It was made with anchovies, shallots, vinegar, wine and spices. That recipe was reprinted through the 19th century.

Ketchup — made from everything from mushrooms to peppers and grapes — was popular for its salty and vinegary taste. The salt and vinegar also meant it could sit on the shelf for a long time without going bad, which was important in a time without refrigerators.

Mushrooms were the main ingredient in most ketchups in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Tomato ketchup was made with red, green and yellow tomatoes and the resulting sauce looked brown, not bright red like it is now.

In 1876, Heinz Tomato Ketchup made its debut on store shelves. It was one of America’s first packaged foods and has since dominated the ketchup market.

After Heinz began producing ketchup and the store-bought kind became popular, recipes started to disappear from cookbooks.

In 1890, Heinz adopted its classic glass bottle, which you’ll still find in restaurants.

In 1968, Heinz started putting ketchup in individual packets.

In 1983, Heinz unveiled a plastic, squeezable bottle.

In 1990, ConAgra acquired Beatrice Co., which in turn owned Hunt-Wesson Inc., the producer of Hunt’s ketchup and other tomato products.

In 2000, Heinz brought out green and purple ketchups. Kids dug it; the rest of us didn’t.

In 2010, Hunt’s removed high-fructose corn syrup from its recipe.


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