Ketchup is a popular condiment made from tomatoes. It is also known as tomato sauce, catsup, and red sauce, depending on regional variations. Americans in particular are fond of ketchup; they consume $400 million US Dollars of it every year. The sauce is also used in a range of other nations from Australia to England, and in addition to being used as a condiment, it is also a major ingredient in some dishes, such as meatloaf.
The origins of ketchup are particularly fascinating. The word is borrowed from the Malaysian word kechap, for “sauce.” Sailors were introduced to ubiquitous Asian sauces with fermented fish and vinegar during their travels, and they brought these sauces back with them to Europe. By the late 1600s, people were making ketchup in many parts of Europe, though not in a form which would be recognized today. This early sauce was made with an assortment of ingredients pickled in vinegar, and it could include strong fish sauce, nuts, and vegetables. A version with tomatoes was first made by early settlers in America, but it wasn't until the 20th century that “ketchup” came to refer to a sauce made specifically with tomatoes.
The first major producer was the Heinz Company, which made its name with pickles but soon came to be famous for its ketchup. The Heinz recipe creates a flavor that is familiar to many consumers, mingling the savory flavor of ripe tomatoes with a hint of sweetness and sourness for an extremely popular condiment that pairs well with a wide range of foods.
One of the famous traits of ketchup is its viscosity, which can make it difficult to pour. Some consumers get around this by using squeeze bottles, while others have perfect tricks for getting it out of a glass bottle. Generally, inverting the bottle and gently tapping it around the area where it widens is sufficient enough to get the sauce moving, although storing bottles upside down is a generally good idea.
To make ketchup at home, roughly chop 5 pounds (2.25 kilograms) of tomatoes and cook them for around five minutes in a large, heavy pan with 0.25 cup (59 ml) vinegar and 0.5 teaspoon (3 grams) of salt. Mash the tomatoes as they cook, and then pour them into a strainer over a saucepan to collect the liquid. Mash the tomatoes through the strainer over another saucepan to create a puree without tomato skins and seeds, and add 0.25 cup (50 grams) sugar to this puree.
In the saucepan with the liquid, add around 0.5 teaspoon (around 1 to 1.35 grams) each of spices like allspice, ginger, ground peppercorns, cayenne pepper, chili powder, finely minced chilies, onion, and garlic, along with 0.25 cup (59 ml) vinegar. Simmer the liquid until it turns into a dense syrup, and then stir the solid puree into the liquid. Cook the ketchup to reduce it to a thick sauce, stirring carefully so that the sugar does not burn. Taste the finished sauce, which should sweet and a bit tangy with a hint of spice, and adjust the flavor as needed. Decant into sterilized canning jars.