With our recent posts on hot dogs and mustard, we feel obligated to turn our attention to ketchup, A.K.A. catsup. Perhaps more ubiquitously American than apple pie, this red sauce is found in 97% of U.S. households, with a national average consumption of three bottles per person annually, according to National Geographic.

Turning once again to the Association for Dressings and Sauces, we find ketchup to be defined as “a thick tomato-based sauce with the addition of salt, sugar, vinegar and spices.”

Unlike, our last subject – mustard – modern ketchup is quite different from it’s ancestors. The original was made from fermented fish and, according to, dates back as far as 300 B.C. in southern China. This is long before tomatoes were brought back to England from South America in the 1500s.  Keep in mind that the fruit was believed to be poisonous so it was not eaten, in England, for a few more centuries.

The British were, likely, first introduced to ketchup in Inidia, in the 17th century, according to National Geographic, with Richard Bradley publishing a recipe for “Ketchup in Paste” in 1732. According to NPR, “catchup” made its first appearance in the Oxford Engish Dictionary in 1699 as “a high East-India Sauce.” By this time, tomatoes were still not a part of ketchup and to this day, according to National Geographic, British recipes incorporate ingredients such as mushrooms, walnuts, oysters, or anchovies in an attempt to recreate the flavor discovered in Asia.

In 1812, James Mease published the first recipe for tomato ketchup. According to, Mease declared the best ketchup was made from “love apples” as tomatoes were called at that time. Unfortunately, according to National Geographic, many 19th Century recipes also included risky ingredients to prevent spoilage and Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley sought to create a ketchup free of chemical preservatives. Wiley partnered with Henry J. Heinz who started producing ketchup in 1876. Looking at a bottle of ketchup in the family fridge, the ingredients are tomato puree, sugar, white vinegar, salt, onion powder, and spices. This seems inline with Wiley and Heinz’s recipe, while a far cry from the original Asian fish-based sauce from 300 B.C.

Do you have any cleaver or unique uses for ketchup? Share in the comments.