Ketchup. Yes, ketchup is probably one of the most common ingredients on the barbecue circuit. You wouldn’t know it from looking around the competition tents, but it is. It forms the basis of many home made and even many store bought barbeque sauces.
Nowadays, most Americans think of ketchup as a tomato based product, but that wasn’t always the case. Hundreds of years ago, the Chinese and Malaysians used the brine from pickled fish as dipping sauces. Known as kachiap, the sauce had a savory taste, flavored by the brine spices and fish. Europe in the 1600s, cooks began experimenting with different ingredients—besides anchovies, mushrooms, walnuts, oysters, and even lemons appeared in various ketchup recipes over the next couple of centuries. Throughout the ages, the only ingredient that remained constant was salt.
In the New World, tomatoes were known to be used in ketchup as early as the 1780s, though the first published recipe for tomato ketchup—created by James Mease, a physician and horticulturist from Philadelphia—dates only from 1812.
It wasn’t until the late 1800’s when a Pennsylvania food producer took tomatoes, added vinegar, sugar, onion and some secret spices and bottled it did tomato ketchup take hold. Now, pretty much all ketchup in America is made the same way. Sure, the seasonings vary from brand brand, but to Americans, ketchup is a thick tomato based sauce.
Now when it comes to barbecue sauce and ketchup, well some would say that’s a marriage made in heaven. Do a Google search for “ketchup and barbecue sauce” and you’ll get 1,770,000 hits. Thanks to our friends at Kraft Foods, a thick tomato based sauce, aka Kansas City style, has become the definition of barbecue sauce in the US. Even in Texas, when they do use sauce, ketchup is often the first ingredient.
So, the next time you reach for a bottle of barbeque sauce, remember, you’re just putting doctored up ketchup on your ribs! Enjoy.
Photo of ketchup courtesy http://www.instructables.com