A brief history of ketchup!

Ketchup is the most popular BBQ condiment and in fact the most popular sauce in Europe and America.

It is believed that ketchup was invented over 500 years ago but not as the sauce we know it today. It originally started out in Asia as a fermented fish sauce for tofu and rice.

When the English and Dutch sailors visited Asia, they would eat this to add flavor to their bland rations or pork and bread. They took on this recipe and adapted it for European taste buds upon their return – primarily making it from mushrooms, egg whites, walnuts and salt.

At some point in time, it is theorised that the Southern Americans and Mexicans added tomato to the mix – giving it it’s famous coloring and tangy flavor. This revolutionized the recipe and made it the popular condiment that it is today. Why was it so late in the history of ketchup that tomatoes were introduced?

In the 1700s, tomato was considered a poisonous fruit. It was feared in Europe for over 200 years and nicknamed as ‘the poisonous apple’ because aristocrats and other wealthy members of society would bizarrely fall sick and die after eating them.  It wasn’t until years later than the tomatoes cleared their name and proved themselves innocent when it was realized that the fruit itself wasn’t causing sickness. Europeans (especially the wealthy) would eat from pewter plates, which contained high concentrations of lead. Due to the high acidity of tomato’s,  the fruit would extract lead from the plates, therefore causing many lead related deaths and sickness.

17th Century Aristocrats


When the fruit gained its credibility again, the invention of pizza in Naples in the 1800’s made tomatoes a popular and versatile ingredient in Italian cuisine – a staple food used in pizza bases, pasta sauces and dressings.

Today Heinz, the most highly sought-after brand in supermarkets, sell 650 million bottles of ketchup worldwide turning over a profit of more than 1.5 billion. However, if you want to be a bit alternative and take a leaf out of history, here are some homemade tomato ketchup recipes that you could impress your guests with at your next BBQ.




  • 4 onions roughly chopped
  • 250g celery, roughly chopped
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 short cinnamon stick
  • 4 sliced garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • Half a tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 2 tsp celery salt
  • Half a tsp tabasco sauce
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2kg roughly chopped ripe tomatoes
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 200ml white wine vinegar





Mix celery and onions into a food processor until finely chopped.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil and add the onions and celery. Cover, then simmer on a low heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and allow to season for a further 5 minutes. Then add the spices and leave for 1 minute.



Bring to boil and stir in all the remaining ingredients. Keep it bubbling on a simmer uncovered for 1 hour. Keep on the heat until tomatoes are soft and the liquid has reduced. Get rid of the cinnamon stick



Stir with a wooden stick until the mixture is of a smooth consistency. Decant into a bowl and wait for it to cool down, before serving it to your guests!

Tip: The consistency should thicken as it cools, but if not, just place back on the heat a little longer.

Make sure the ketchup is stored in an airtight container and kept in the fridge. The usual shelf life once refrigerated is 3 months.


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