Who invented ketchup (+ his amazing story)

The first tomato-based ketchup emerged in 1812. It was invented by the American scientist James Mease. He referred to tomatoes as “love apples” because he believed they had aphrodisiac properties.

However, the seasoning’s beginnings actually date back to ancient civilizations.

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Stick with your fries, because the ketchup origin story is more adventurous than you might imagine.

It’s a centuries-old journey with surprising twists and turns that will make you see this beloved seasoning in a whole new light.

Read on for the incredible story.

The history of tomato sauce

The history of ketchup takes us on a long journey from ancient China to England and America.

Ketchup has become a beloved condiment with a fascinating and diverse origin story. So here’s the big surprise: The first ketchup actually contained no tomatoes. Cue I gasp!

Instead, it was a Chinese fish sauce called “ge-thcup” or “koe-cheup”.

This fish paste, sourced from the Fujian province of China, was made with fermented fish innards and soybeans.

So if you bet that ketchup was an American invention, you were wrong!

Hokkien Chinese traders would bring these sauces to Malaysia and Indonesia. Here, the sauces earned the names “kechap” and “ketjap”.

From South East Asia, this daring sensation began its world voyage and finally landed in the hands of British sailors.

They were quite wowed by the Chinese fish sauce, with its strong flavor and impressive shelf life. They were so enamored with this exotic seasoning that they had to take it with them to England.

However, when they tried to recreate it in the early 18th century, the recipe underwent some wild transformations. A peculiar recipe from 1736 suggested making the seasoning by boiling two liters of stale beer and half a pound of anchovies. This mixture was then left to ferment.

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It sounds strange today, but back in the day, it was just another creative spin on ketchup’s diverse lineage.

Fried chicken smothered in ketchup

The golden age of ketchup

The 18th century was the era of ketchup.

When British sailors brought the sauce to England, it created a culinary frenzy. But the original ingredients were not available in England.

This led to some creative interpretations. The British tried to replicate the flavor using ingredients like mussels, oysters, and walnuts.

Some recipes even called for peaches and plums! There was also a fancy “Prince of Wales” ketchup, made with elderberries and anchovies.

These ingredients were simmered until syrupy or salted and allowed to marry for some time. The result was a flavorful, salty, and spicy concentrate that refused to go bad.

And while these concoctions may have been intensely flavored, their long shelf life made them quite popular.

Here’s another fun fact. Jane Austen, the famous author of pride and prejudiceI had a soft spot for mushroom ketchup!

nuggets dipped in ketchup

Why are there no tomatoes?

It’s fascinating how this seasoning took so many variations before tomatoes finally took center stage.

So you might be scratching your head and thinking, “Where are the tomatoes?” Interestingly, the English thought that tomatoes were a dangerous business!

When tomatoes first came to England in the 16th century, people thought they were poisonous. They were mostly seen as decorative garden plants.

The belief was not entirely unfounded, as the acidity of the tomatoes could leach lead from pewter dishes, causing lead poisoning.

The invention of tomato sauce

Now let’s cross the Atlantic. In 1812, an American named James Mease had the innovative idea of ​​incorporating tomatoes into tomato sauce.

Again, he referred to tomatoes as “love apples” for their alleged aphrodisiac properties.

And here’s another intriguing fact: Mease’s recipe included alcohol. It looks amazing today. But it was a nod to how the British made ketchup a century earlier.

So, it took some time for tomatoes to become the stars of the ketchup show. But once they did, there was no going back.

ketchup bottle

Towards a standardized tomato sauce

As the 19th century progressed, tomato sauce gained popularity. However, conservation was a significant challenge due to the short growing season of the tomatoes.

To extend shelf life, manufacturers often add artificial preservatives like sodium benzoate and coal tar. This raised health concerns among consumers.

Enter Henry Heinz, the man with a vision for safer ketchup. His revolutionary idea in 1876 involved the use of riper tomatoes, which contained more natural pectin.

This helped preserve the ketchup. But it also improved its quality. Heinz also added distilled vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and spices.

The iconic glass bottles were a strategic move as people doubted the safety of ketchup. Heinz’s clear glass bottles indicated transparency and quality.

Who invented ketchup (+ his amazing story)

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