If you love the thin and sweet consistency of Heinz ketchup, chances are that you probably wouldn’t love the original ketchup. While we all know ketchup today as tomato-based and saucy, it hasn’t always been the case. For the first 150 years or so, when you said ketchup, you meant mushroom ketchup.
Wild mushroom ketchup is a unique recipe for foragers. It combines the umami taste of soy sauce with the depth of Worcestershire sauce. Like most homemade sauces, the flavor profiles are endless.
Originating in Great Britain, mushroom ketchup was the original ketchup. It was an intense umami condiment used in everything from soups to marinades. The first reference to ketchup was in 1682, and since, it has expanded to more and more British and American cookbooks. Mushroom ketchup was a common condiment and would’ve been found in many kitchens.
In the 18th century, British and American people considered the tomato a deadly poison. It’s a nightshade family member, like eggplants, potatoes, peppers, and tobacco. The nightshade family gets its nickname from the most prominent poisonous perennial, belladonna, or deadly nightshade.
They weren’t wrong about poisoning, though. Before the 1800s, rich people primarily used pewter for flatware, which caused lead to come out of high-acid foods like tomatoes. Lead poisoning or death could occur. Tomatoes were eaten mainly by poor Italians until the 1800s when Italian cooking and the invention of pizza spread north.
The first reference to tomato ketchup wasn’t until 1812. Early tomato ketchup recipes even included anchovies, likely to still get that umami flavor. However, the anchovies were dropped from recipes by the mid-1850s. American cooks started to sweeten ketchup recipes, and farmers began to sell their own recipes. Heinz Tomato Ketchup launched in 1876, and the rest is tomato history.
Traditional mushroom ketchup is easy to make, looks like black bean soup, and tastes like soy sauce. You can use fresh mushrooms as the base and also incorporate dried mushrooms into the seasoning process for more mushroom flavor.
Two pounds of fresh mushrooms will yield about four to five cups of mushroom ketchup. You can separate these into batches and flavor them differently.
Portobello or porcini mushrooms offer the best palette for mushroom ketchup. Each flavor profiles work well with adding allspice, white wine, and even brown sugar.
Trim away any damaged or discolored portions. You can also brush mushrooms clean, but the trick is to avoid washing mushrooms. Once wet, mushrooms act like sponges. They become water-logged and cannot soak up seasonings or become totally dry.
Finely chop or use a food processor to break down the mushroom pieces. Solid pieces should be no bigger than a half-inch.
Mix the mushroom pieces with pickling salt and cover them with a cloth. Let the mixture sit for 24 hours and stir every six to eight hours.
The mushrooms will give off a brown liquid at first that will become darker over time. It’ll also thicken up from a runny consistency to a thicker stewy mixture.
Now is the time to soak if you’re using dried mushrooms in addition to fresh mushrooms. Pour hot water over the mushrooms and let sit for 15 minutes.
Once the fresh mushrooms have sat for 24 hours and the dried mushrooms have sat for 15 minutes, puree the mushrooms.
Add to a saucepan, and include your seasonings. If your spices need to be pureed, like whole peppercorns, puree them before adding them.
A classic mushroom ketchup recipe includes shallots, garlic, white wine vinegar, ground black pepper, ginger, allspice, cloves, mace, and bay leaves. You can mix and match your own creations, however. Horseradish and cayenne pepper are two ways to amp up the umami flavor in your batches.
Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then simmer for about 1 hour. Continue stirring every 10 minutes or so to prevent the bottom from burning. The mushroom ketchup will be ready when the mushroom pieces seem like they’re coated in jelly.
Remove from heat and let cool when the desired consistency is reached.
If you added any ingredients like bay leaves, you could use a strainer to remove them, and if you want a finer consistency, you can puree the mixture again when it’s safe to do so.
Can your mushroom ketchup according to standard canning methods if you want to store it for more than one month. You can also keep it in airtight containers on your countertop.
Use your mushroom ketchup with pleasure, and maybe you can even gift one or two batches to friends.
Mushroom ketchup will go with just about anything! Add a dash to a homemade vinaigrette, a spoonful to a bowl of stew, or spread on a turkey sandwich like the condiment it is. Eating mushroom ketchup is a unique experience considering it was the first catsup.
If you don’t want to make your own but still want to try it, people rave about Geo Watkins Mushroom Ketchup. A British-made sauce, reviewers love pairing it with Shepard’s Pie and hamburgers. The mushroom flavor stands out, but it still works well with fries and even boiled eggs. This variety is thinner than a traditional mushroom ketchup recipe, which is boiled to a thicker consistency.
Overall, mushroom ketchup is a delightful treat if you love umami flavors like soy sauce. If sweet tomato ketchup isn’t your jam, there’s a good chance you’ll love the original version with mushrooms. In that case, you can claim that you loved ketchup before it was cool.