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A bottle of ketchup made by H. J. Heinz Company, the largest distributor of ketchup in the world

Ketchup (Listeni/ˈkɛəp/ or Listeni/ˈkɛʌp/, also catsup, tomato sauce, or red sauce) is a sweet and tangy sauce, typically made from tomatoes, vinegar, a sweetener, and assorted seasonings and spices. The sweetener is most commonly sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Seasonings vary by recipe, but commonly include onions, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, and celery.[1] Ketchup is often used as a condiment with various, usually hot, dishes including french fries (chips), hamburgers, sandwiches and grilled or fried meat. Ketchup is sometimes used as a basis or ingredient for other sauces and dressings.



A bottle of Geo. Watkins mushroom ketchup

In the 1690s the Chinese mixed a concoction of pickled fish and spices and called it (in the Amoy dialect) kôe-chiap or kê-chiap (鮭汁, Mandarin guī zhī) meaning the brine of pickled fish (鮭, carp; 汁, juice) or shellfish.[2]

By the early 18th century, the table sauce had made it to the Malay states (present day Malaysia and Singapore), where it was discovered by British explorers. The Indonesian-Malay word for the sauce was kĕchap. That word evolved into the English word "ketchup".[3]

Many variations of ketchup were created, but the tomato-based version did not appear until about a century after other types. By 1801, a recipe for tomato ketchup was created by Sandy Addison and was later printed in an American cookbook, the Sugar House Book.[4]

  1. Get [the tomatoes] quite ripe on a dry day, squeeze them with your hands till reduced to a pulp, then put half a pound of fine salt to one hundred tomatoes, and boil them for two hours.
  2. Stir them to prevent burning.
  3. While hot press them through a fine sieve, with a silver spoon till nought but the skin remains, then add a little mace, 3 nutmegs, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper to taste.
  4. Boil over a slow fire till quite thick, stir all the time.
  5. Bottle when cold.
  6. One hundred tomatoes will make four or five bottles and keep good for two or three years.

The salt in this recipe, which served as a preservative, yields an extremely salty taste. This recipe is important because tomato was not widely accepted by people in North America in the early 1800s. Many people incorrectly believed that tomatoes, which resembled their cousin deadly nightshade, were poisonous.

James Mease published another recipe in 1812. In 1824, a ketchup recipe using tomatoes appeared in The Virginia Housewife (an influential 19th-century cookbook written by Mary Randolph, Thomas Jefferson's cousin). American cooks also began to sweeten ketchup in the 19th century.[5]

As the century progressed, tomato ketchup began its ascent in popularity in the United States. Ketchup was popular long before fresh tomatoes were.[6] Many Americans continued to question whether it was safe to eat raw tomatoes. However, they were much less hesitant to eat tomatoes as part of a highly processed product that had been cooked and infused with vinegar and spices.[6]

Tomato ketchup was sold locally by farmers. A man named Jonas Yerks (or Yerkes) is believed to have been the first man to make tomato ketchup a national phenomenon. By 1837, he had produced and distributed the condiment nationally.[7]Shortly thereafter, other companies followed suit. F. & J. Heinz launched their tomato ketchup in 1876.[8] Heinz tomato ketchup was advertised: "Blessed relief for Mother and the other women in the household!", a slogan which alluded to the lengthy and onerous process required to produce tomato ketchup in the home.[9]

The Webster's Dictionary of 1913 defined ‘catchup’ as: “table sauce made from mushrooms, tomatoes, walnuts, etc. [Also written as ketchup].”

Modern ketchup emerged in the early years of the 20th century, out of a debate over the use of sodium benzoate as a preservative in condiments. Harvey W. Wiley, the "father" of the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S., challenged the safety of benzoate which was banned in the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. In response, entrepreneurs including Henry J. Heinz, pursued an alternative recipe that eliminated the need for that preservative.[1]

Prior to Heinz (and his fellow innovators), commercial tomato ketchups of that time were watery and thin, in part due to the use of unripe tomatoes, which were low in pectin. They had less vinegar than modern ketchups; by pickling ripe tomatoes, the need for benzoate was eliminated without spoilage or degradation in flavor. But the changes driven by the desire to eliminate benzoate also produced changes[clarification needed] that some experts (such as Andrew F. Smith[10]) believe were key to the establishment of tomato ketchup as the dominant American condiment.

Later innovations

In fast food outlets, ketchup is often dispensed in small packets. Diners tear the side or top and squeeze the ketchup out of the ketchup packets. In 2011, Heinz began offering a new measured-portion package, called the "Dip and Squeeze" packet, which allowed the consumer to either tear the top off the package and squeeze the contents out, as with the traditional packet, or, in the alternative, tear the front off the package and use the package as a dip cup of the type often supplied with certain entreés.[11]

Previously fast food outlets dispensed ketchup from pumps into paper cups. This method has made a resurgence in the first decade of the 21st century with cost and environmental concerns increasing of individual packets.

In October 2000, Heinz introduced colored ketchup products called EZ Squirt, which eventually included green, purple, pink, orange, teal, and blue.[12] These products were made by adding food coloring to the traditional ketchup. As of January 2006 these products have been discontinued.[13]


The term used for the sauce varies. Ketchup (sometimes spelled catsup in American English) is the dominant term in American English and Canadian English. In these dialects, tomato sauce refers to pasta sauce, and is not a synonym for ketchup. Tomato sauce is more common in Commonwealth English (e.g., Australia, India, New Zealand and South Africa). In British English, the two terms are interchangeable. Red sauce is used in Welsh English, Scottish English, Irish English and some parts of England, such as the Black Country, and in South London, often contrasting with brown sauce with which it is often served but in Canadian and American English, "red sauce" refers to red spicy sauces (or sweet and sour sauce) and is not a synonym for ketchup.

The etymology of the word ketchup is uncertain, with multiple competing theories:[14]

China theory

The Chinese characters representing the original words-phrase ketchup are disputed. The two primary theories as to the word's original Chinese orthography either alludes to a fish sauce or to a pickled tomato sauce.

Fish sauce

The China theory is that the word derives from one of two words from the Fujian region of coastal southern China: "kôe-chiap" (in the Xiamen accent) or "kê-chiap" (in the Zhangzhou accent). Both of these words (鮭汁, kôe-chiap and kê-chiap) come from the Amoy dialect of China, where it meant the brine of pickled fish (鮭, carp; 汁, juice) or shellfish.[2] There are citations of "koe-chiap" in the Dictionary of the Vernacular or Spoken Language of the Amoy (London; Trudner) from 1873, defined as "brine of pickled fish or shell-fish."

Tomato sauce

An alternative Chinese theory expounded in certain dictionaries[15] states that the word "ketchup" derives from a Chinese word composed of two characters (茄汁, Cantonese (Jyutping): ke2 zap1, Hakka: kyo jip, Minnan/Southern Hokkien: ga1 zap7, Teochew: giê5 zab4/kiê5 tsap4, corresponding to Mandarin (Pinyin) qie zhī) based on Southern Chinese dialects, which means "tomato sauce." The first character (), is the root for the word "tomato" 番茄 (lit. "southern foreigner's eggplant") in Mandarin and Cantonese or (lit. "red eggplant") in Taiwanese.

Some have stated (without authority) that at the relevant time tomatoes were unknown in China; however, the first recorded mention of "tomato" in China is Zhao Han's (赵函) "Zhi Pin"("植品") (1617) which states that the tomato was introduced into China by missionaries in the late 16th century. The second character () means "juice" or "sauce". Pronunciations of this word vary by region, but their similarities to the English "ketchup" can be noticed.

LanguagePronunciation (IPA)Other transcriptions
Cantonese[kʰɛ̌ːtsɐ́p]Jyutpingke2 zap1

Malay theory

Ketchup may have[3][15] entered the English language from the Malay word kicap (pron. "kichap", also spelled kecap, ketjap), originally meaning "fish sauce",[15] which itself may be[15] a loan from Chinese terms above.

In Indonesian cuisine, which is similar to Malay, the term kecap or ketjap refers to fermented savory sauces. Two main types are well known in their cuisine: kecap asin which translates to 'salty kecap' in Indonesian (a salty soy sauce) and kecap manis or literally 'sweet kecap' in Indonesian. Kecap manis is a sweet soy sauce that is a mixture of soy sauce with brown sugar, molasses, garlic, ginger, anise, coriander and a bay leaf reduced over medium heat until rather syrupy. A third type, kecap ikan, meaning "fish kecap" is fish sauce similar to the Thai "Nam Pla" or the Philippine "Patis." It is not, however, soy-based.

European-Arabic theory

American anthropologist E.N. Anderson claimed that ketchup is a cognate of the French escaveche, meaning "food in sauce".[14] The word also exists in Spanish and Portuguese forms as escabeche, "a sauce for pickling", which culinary historian Karen Hess traced back to Arabic Kabees, or "pickling with vinegar".[14] The term was anglicized to caveach, a word first attested in the late 17th century, at the same time as ketchup.[14]

Early uses in English

The word entered the English language in Britain during the late 17th century, appearing in print as catchup (1690) and later as ketchup (1711). The following is a list of early quotations collected by the Oxford English Dictionary.

Blue Label Tomato Ketchup advertisement from 1898

The spelling catsup seems to have appeared first from the pen of Jonathan Swift, in 1730.

"Fancy" ketchup

Some ketchup in the U.S. is labeled "Fancy". This is a USDA grade, relating to specific gravity. Fancy ketchup has a higher tomato solid concentration than other USDA grades.[16]

USDA Ketchup Grades
GradeSpecific GravityTotal Solids
Extra Standard1.1329%


The following table compares the nutritional value of ketchup with raw ripe tomatoes and salsa, based on information from the USDA Food Nutrient Database.[17]

(per 100 g)
KetchupLow sodium
USDA commodity
Energy100 kcal
419 kJ
104 kcal
435 kJ
18 kcal
75 kJ
36 kcal
150 kJ
Water68.33 g66.58 g94.50 g89.70 g
Protein1.74 g1.52 g0.88 g1.50 g
Fats0.49 g0.36 g0.20 g0.20 g
Carbohydrates25.78 g27.28 g3.92 g7.00 g
Sodium1110 mg20 mg5 mg430 mg
Vitamin C15.1 mg15.1 mg12.7 mg4 mg
Lycopene17.0 mg19.0 mg2.6 mgn/a

Ketchup has health benefits which are offset by the salt and sugar content.[18][not in citation given] Ketchup is a source of lycopene, an antioxidant which may help prevent some forms of cancer. This is particularly true of the organic brands of ketchup, which have three times as much lycopene.[19] Ketchup, much like marinara sauce and other cooked tomato foods, yields higher levels of lycopene per serving because cooking increases lycopene bioavailability

In May 2010, Hunt's stopped using high fructose corn syrup in its ketchup products in direct response to consumer demand.


Transferring ketchup between plastic bottles

Tomato ketchup has an additive, usually xanthan gum, which gives the condiment a pseudoplastic or "shear thinning" property. This increases the viscosity of the ketchup considerably with a relatively small amount added - usually 0.5%. - which can make it difficult to pour from a container. However, the shear thinning property of the gum ensures that when a force is applied to the ketchup it will lower the viscosity enabling the sauce to flow. A common method to getting ketchup out of the bottle involves inverting the bottle and shaking it or hitting the bottom with the heel of the hand, which causes the ketchup to flow rapidly. A technique known widely among caterers[citation needed] involves inverting the bottle and forcefully tapping its upper neck with two fingers (index and middle finger together). Specifically, with a Heinz ketchup bottle, one taps the 57 circle on the neck. This helps the ketchup flow by applying the correct shearing force.[20][dead link] These techniques work because of how pseudoplastic fluids behave: their viscosity (resistance to flow) decreases with increasing shear rate. The faster the ketchup is sheared (by shaking or tapping the bottle), the more fluid it becomes. After the shear is removed the ketchup thickens to its original viscosity.

See also


  1. ^ a b "How ketchup is made". Retrieved 2010-05-27.
  2. ^ a b In the Chinese Amoy dialect, "kôe-chiap" (Xiamen accented Amoy) or "kê-chiap" (probably Penang Hokkien, which is based on Zhangzhou accented Amoy) (part of the Ming Na language) signifies "brine of pickled fish or shell-fish" (The Oxford English Dictionary, Douglas Chinese Dict. 46/1, 242/1).
  3. ^ a b "Ketchup - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-08-26.
  4. ^ Taken from "The Sugar House Book", 1801.
  5. ^ Elizabeth Rozin (1994). The Primal Cheeseburger. New York: Penguin books. ISBN 978-0-14-017843-2.
  6. ^ a b "Tomato History: From Poison to Obsession".
  7. ^ Quentin R.Skrabec,H.J. Heinz: a biography - McFarland & Co. - 2009,pg 57
  8. ^ "Heinz - History". H.J. Heinz Company. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  9. ^ Casey, Kathy (2004). Retro Food Fiascos: A Collection of Curious Concoctions. Collectors Press. pp. 128. ISBN 978-1-888054-88-0.
  10. ^ Andrew F. Smith (2001). The Tomato in America: Early History, Culture, and Cookery. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-07009-9.,M1.
  11. ^ Nassauer, Sarah (September 19, 2011). "Old Ketchup Packet Heads for Trash". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc.. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  12. ^ "Heinz unveils new blue ketchup". USA Today. Associated Press. April 7, 2003.
  13. ^ Heinz - Consumer FAQs
  14. ^ a b c d "The etymological origin of the word ketchup is a matter of confusion." Pure Ketchup, by Andrew F. Smith, ISBN 1-56098-993-9. Page 4.
  15. ^ a b c d "Ketchup". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, published by Houghton Mifflin Company
  16. ^ "Textural Modification of Processing Tomatoes". Retrieved 2011-05-19.
  17. ^ "USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference". USDA. Retrieved 2007-12-03.
  18. ^ "Ketchup". BBC. July 27, 2004. Retrieved May 25, 2011.
  19. ^ Ishida B, Chapman M (2004). "A comparison of carotenoid content and total antioxidant activity in catsup from several commercial sources in the United States.". J Agric Food Chem 52 (26): 8017–20. doi:10.1021/jf040154o. PMID 15612790.
  20. ^ [dead link] "How to pour Ketchup (Catsup). Full technical explanation.".[dead link]. Retrieved 2007-12-30.[dead link]

External links