Critiques, Cravings and Conundrums From the Madison Food and Dining Scene
May 27, 2013
01:53 PM
Small Dishes

Ketchup, The Big Red

Ketchup, The Big Red

As we know it now, it was born and bred in the U.S.A. Its name, however, comes from that of a Chinese condiment made from pickled fish called kôe-chiap or kê-chiap. By the 18th century its popularity had spread to what is today Malaysia and Singapore. There known as kÄ•chap, it was discovered by British explorers. The word in English became “ketchup.”

Then, almost any kind of meat relish or sauce could be and was dubbed “ketchup,” both in Great Britain and its colonies. Alternative spellings were “catchup” and “catsup.” The 1913 Webster's Dictionary defines “catchup” as “a table sauce made from mushrooms, tomatoes, walnuts, etc. [Also written as ketchup].”

Ultimately, ketchup—however you spell it—became synonymous with tomatoes, thanks to Henry Heinz. In 1876, on the heels of the success of its horseradish and pickle business, the H. J. Heinz Co. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, introduced a thick, rich and bottled product: Tomato Catsup. Heinz soon switched to labeling it “ketchup,” but some of their competitors continued to use “catsup.” Recipes may differ, but the products are basically the same.

As with many early mass-produced foods—before the emergence of food additives and preservatives—the recipe was simple: tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt and spices. What set Heinz Ketchup apart and made it the bestseller was its signature thickness; the result of using only ripe tomatoes rich in pectin. Supposedly the secret ingredient is clove oil which imparts a distinctive tang. In recent years corn syrup replaced sugar in the formula. However, if you’re one of those people who believe everything tasted better in the past, Heinz now markets Simply Heinz Tomato Ketchup made with sugar instead of corn syrup.

Just as the iconic shape of the Coca-Cola bottle is recognized the world over, so is the Heinz ketchup bottle. No doubt the American export of hamburgers and fast food spread the popularity of ketchup. Seemingly other cultures have found new uses for our creation. In 1969, when I was a student living in London, I remember ordering a pizza and being asked, “Would you like tomato sauce with that?” When I replied that I would, to my chagrin I was brought a bottle of Heinz ketchup. In Tibet it’s as popular with momos (dumplings) as it is with French fries here. According to the Heinz website, “Over 650 million bottles of Heinz Ketchup are sold around the world in more than 140 countries, with annual sales of more than $1.5 billion.”  That’s a lot of ketchup! They also tweak the recipe to suit local taste. For example, what is sold in the U.K. is sweeter than in the U.S.

In 97 percent of this country’s homes you’ll find a bottle of the red stuff as well as in nine out of ten restaurants. Growing up, my father wouldn’t patronize eateries that didn’t serve Heinz ketchup. He reckoned that if they cut corners with their ketchup, so would they on everything else. Heinz continues to dominate the ketchup market, but today salsa has surpassed ketchup in popularity as a condiment. Yet, I predict ketchup will be around for a long time to come. It’s so versatile, whether straight out of the bottle, or as an ingredient in cooking. Rest assured, salsa will not replace ketchup on meatloaf!

RECIPE: All-American Meat Loaf



3/4 cup ketchup
6 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp cider vinegar

Meat Loaf:

1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp Creole seasoning
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh thyme
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp Worcestershire
1/2 tsp Tabasco
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
3/4 pound ground veal
3/4 pound ground pork
1 cup hand-crumbled saltines
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
3 large eggs
8 to 12 slices thin-sliced bacon


Preheat oven 350 degrees.

Combine the topping ingredients and set aside.

Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil over moderately low heat until soft. Off heat, add the yogurt, Creole seasoning, salt, thyme, black pepper, mustard, Worcestershire and Tabasco. Combine well and set aside to cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl combine the ground meat, crumbled saltines, parsley and cooled onion-garlic mixture. In a small bowl lightly beat the eggs to combine and add to the meat mixture. Mix well using your hands. In a shallow baking pan shape the meat mixture into a loaf. Brush the top with half the topping and crisscross the bacon slices forming “Xs” over the top, tucking the ends of the bacon under the meat loaf. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Brush with half the remaining topping and bake another 20 minutes. Brush with remaining topping and bake another 20 minutes. Cool 20 to 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Serves six to eight.

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About This Blog

Dan CurdI found my interest in writing by accident. My training and first job was as a graphic designer. Unemployed, the only employment I could find in advertising at that time was as a copywriter. Somehow, I convinced Richard Newman & Associates to hire me. Later I learned they were desperate. Madison has been my home off and on since 1957 (nonstop for the past 31 years). I write about food, which I love. – Dan Curd

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