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.
Sources: history.com; gawker.com; heinz.com; slate.com