Ketchup 790 xxx
photos by george billard

6.26.10 Condimental: Playing Ketchup

I love all the trappings of an American summer barbecue—pickles, ketchup, chips, mayonnaise. But now that I've become so conscious of what goes into the industrialized versions of these classics, I will never set out a bottle of Heinz again. It's loaded with high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup, salt and "natural flavoring," which could easily mean MSG. So sad, considering the origins of this wonderful tomato condiment. The word "ketchup" (also "catsup") derives from the Chinese ke-tsiap for pickled-fish sauce, a widespread condiment since ancient times. (See here for my reference to its Roman origins.) The English added mushrooms, nuts and even oysters to it; the Americans added tomatoes from Mexico. So ketchup was originally a lacto-fermented sauce, full of nutrition, enzymes and good bacteria, and not the sugar-laden, heat-processed junk we consume to the tune of half a billion bottles annually. Guess where I'm going with all this? Straight to making our own ketchup. It's easy, really good and keeps in the fridge just like your Heinz. But plopping it on your kids' burgers won't send their blood sugar through the roof or rot their teeth. You can also modify this ketchup to suit your own tastes: add a little curry, or a couple of minced jalapeños, or some toasted, ground fennel seeds. The basic recipe tastes pretty close to the bottled stuff, though it's a little funkier, more complex in a palate-pleasing, umami way.
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