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History of ketchup

Updated on February 22, 2012


One of many names for ketchup.
One of many names for ketchup.

Ketchup's Background

Ketchup is one of those household stables that no-one seems to think much about. While researching ketchup and fine-tuning my knowledge on the topic; I continuously came across the statistic of 97% of households have ketchup. With this information, I never once could find a source for this specific number repeated on almost every site about ketchup. We'll go with it. Depending on this statistic, I am going to assume that we all know what the American version of ketchup is: a tomato based slightly thick sauce. So let's look back at the origins of ketchup. Tomato sauce would be the preferred term in Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa.

Birth land: China

The first claims to ketchup is from China. The Chinese had a concoction which was called kôe-chiap or kê-chiap. This was a sauce which was generally created from anchovies which were fermented and pickled with brine. Sometimes, it was made with shellfish as well. This sauce made its way to what is now known as Malaysia and was "discovered" by British explorers. By 1740, the English had made this a staple. India is another country that assisted in introducing the English to this watery-style sauce from China. In India this soy-type sauce is called, "ketjap" which is closer to the Chinese roots than our ketchup.

Thin and watery: Catchup

The phrasing on some bottles of ketchup that states, "Tomato Ketchup" isn't nearly as redundant as one may think. Since the origins from China of a fermented anchovy in brine-watery-soy-style sauce there have been many changes. The English tried walnut, mushroom, anchovy, oysters, and other types of catchup, as it was known during that time period. The first known recipe for ketchup was published in The Compleat Housewife, in 1727, which is considered to be the first cookbook published in the United States, although it wasn't published in the United States until 1742. This book was originally published in London, England and contained topics such as how to paint rooms and remove mildew and many other topics. The recipe for ketchup "called for anchovies, shallots, vinegar, white wine, sweet spices (cloves, ginger, mace, nutmeg), pepper, and lemon peel". [source:]

National Phenom: Jonas Yerkes

Jonas Yerkes began selling ketchup nationwide by 1837, and this was a ketchup that was made from tomatoes. Still a thin and watery version of what we have today. Some of the differences in tomato ketchup from days of old to current is because of the difference in the tomatoes that were chosen. Before the tomatoes were actually unripe and didn't have the pectin that ripe tomatoes have. The use of sodium benzoate as a preservative was common practice until 1906 when the Pure Food and Drug Act banned the use of sodium benzoate. As a note, Heinz started creating ketchup in 1876. does claim that the Heinz recipe has never changed, but with the Pure Food and Drug Act most all recipes did change, and the Heinz website never claimed the recipe has never changed. The reasoning behind the change is that sodium benzoate was a preservative, but if ripe tomatoes were pickled it took away the need for the preservative. Heinz is the one who responded to the Food and Drug Administration's ban in 1906 and led the way in ketchup, because of this change Heinz set the bar for all tomato ketchup to be made from then on.

Ketchup is official.

Ketchup, catsup, catchup, katsup, catsip, cotsup, kotchup, kitsip, catsoup, katshoup, katsock, cackchop, cornchop, cotpock, kotpock, kutpuck, kutchpuck and cutchpuckwere all names for ketchup at one time [source:]. During the Reagan administration there was legislation about school lunches that included "ketchup" to be a vegetable. This was not for health reasons as some will laugh about, but rather had to do more with subsidized lunches and using ketchup as an ingredient. But because of the spelling in this any producers of tomato ketchup that used one of the other names for ketchup could not sell their product to schools. Most notably hurt by this would be the Del Monte Catsup. Del Monte would end up changing the name to ketchup because of this inability to sell to schools. And henceforth, ketchup is the primary way of spelling and how one will read it in cookbooks forever more.

Fun Facts:

  • In 2008, China was the primary world producer for tomatoes with 25% of the global output - 130,000,000 tons of tomatoes. [source:]
  • Heinz had different color ketchups during the years 2000 to 2006.These colors were red, green, purple, pink, orange, teal, and blue. [source:]
  • Ketchup is slightly like wine - there are good years and bad years depending on tomato crops. [source:]
  • Ketchup can be used to clean copper pots.Helps with the removal of tarnish and build up. [source:]
  • Jonas Yerkes used the refuse of tomato canning-skins, cores, and green tomatoes.He was one of the first people to use sugars as well as vinegar in making ketchup. [source:]
  • Most spelling variations of ketchup are not even recognized by automated spell-checkers. [source: Chris Andrews]
  • The Webster's Dictionary of 1913 defined "catchup" as a "table sauce made from mushrooms, tomatoes, walnuts, etc. [Also written as ketchup]." [source:]


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    • putnut profile image

      putnut 5 years ago from Central Illinois or wherever else I am at the moment.

      In my house, ketchup is not a condiment, it is a food group. nice hub.

    • BaliMermaid profile image

      BaliMermaid 6 years ago from Ubud Bali

      Ketchup - Saus Tomat - what ever - I have it every morning with my grilled cheese sandwich. I always told my parents it was good for my and that's before anyone knew about lycopene benefits. These days the challenge is to find it without MSG or some other terrible additive.

    • CJ Andrews profile image

      Chris Andrews 6 years ago from Norwalk, Ohio

      I am glad that I can help the masses with some of the useless knowledge I have. I always find things of this sort entertaining and I am glad that others do as well. And yes it is a condiment :)

    • feenix profile image

      feenix 6 years ago

      CJ, not only is this a very informative hub, it is also well written and quite entertaining. Even though I always keep a big bottle of ketchup on hand, I hardly ever use that condiment (it is a condiment, isn't it?). And because of what I learned from this post, the next time a go to social gathering, I am going to really impress every one in attendance with my broad knowledge of ketchup and its history. ;-)

    • rob_allen profile image

      rob_allen 6 years ago from MNL, PH

      This is an informative hub sir, btw don't you know that there are also ketchup made from bananas? Well, tomatoes make great ketchup.

    • CJ Andrews profile image

      Chris Andrews 6 years ago from Norwalk, Ohio

      I snorted Coke Cola on a bet, oh how that burned. I can't imagine ketchup being snorted - too thick and how people would look at you :)

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      You know where the best ketchup is? New Zealand. It's so lovely and tangy!!! Gosh, I could practically snort lines of it. Fun Hub!

    • CJ Andrews profile image

      Chris Andrews 6 years ago from Norwalk, Ohio

      Thanks, I'm glad you both liked it. There is some more I may add into it later - just funny side story stuff.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      I didn't know I knew so little about ketchup. This was really a fun hub but useful. Rated up.

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 6 years ago

      I didn't know Ketchup came from China...I LOVE Ketchup, I'm one of those who loves it on Scrambled Eggs! And French Fries OMG yes, yes, YES! Fun and informative Hub CJ.

    • CJ Andrews profile image

      Chris Andrews 6 years ago from Norwalk, Ohio

      I don't like ketchup personally, I eat my french fries w/ nothing at all. And yes, you spelled that correctly :)

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      What would french fries be without ketchup? (Did I spell that right?)

    • CJ Andrews profile image

      Chris Andrews 6 years ago from Norwalk, Ohio

      Thank you, BaliMermaid and Muniramadmughal for commenting. I found the history of ketchup pretty interesting as well. Through join efforts many things can be accomplished. I do know that Hunt (I think it was this company) actually had a law suit for taking advantage of workers in a different country. Just interesting how so many things in the world intertwine.

    • munirahmadmughal profile image

      munirahmadmughal 6 years ago from Lahore, Pakistan.

      "Know your Ketchup"

      The hub is informative.

      Apart from food for stomach there is food for thought in the hub that how kind is the Creator of the Universe that not only food has been provided but also the tastes and the intellect to have the things found, explored, gained, mixed and made into a palatable and pleasant form to make the food delicious and at the same time digestive. Another favour is cooperation and coordination whereby the economic activity flourishes removing poverty from among mankind on account of industries,trade and commerce. Nothing is futile in this world. Man is to use all the faculties and try h is best to advance the development and progress of mankind. Injustices, atrocities, oppressions, cheating and lies of all kinds must be removed and fairness must be made to prevail by our joint efforts and conduct.

      May God bless all.

    • BaliMermaid profile image

      BaliMermaid 6 years ago from Ubud Bali

      Nice hub and a thumbs up for this one. In Indonesia ketchup refers to sweet soy sauce and the ketchup the rest of the world knows is called, simply, sauce tomat.

      But thanks to McDonalds and Heinz we can actually start now to find Ketchup in the supermarkets that is the great tomato ketchup we know, love and remember.