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Catsup during the 1800's

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Found these interesting recipes from a Civil War website and thought it may be of interest:

TOMATO CATSUP (from The Housekeeper's Encyclopedia by Mrs. E. F. Haskell, 1861)

1 gallon tomatoes
3 tbs. salt
3 tbs. ground black pepper
3 tbs. (dry) mustard, or ground mustard seed
1 tsp. ground allspice
4 peppers, type unspecified but "sweet", not hot
1 onion (optional)
1 quart horseradish "juice" (roots grated and liquid pressed out)


1 gallon tomatoes
1/4 oz. mace
1/4 oz. nutmeg
1/4 oz. cloves
1/4-1/2 c. ("a handful") grated horseradish root
2 red peppers or 1 tsp. cayenne
1 pint wine
1/2 pint vinegar

Skin and slice the tomatoes, and boil them an hour and a half. Then put to one gallon not strained, a quarter of an ounce of mace, the same of nutmegs and cloves, one handful of horseradish, two pods of red pepper, or a large teaspoonful of cayenne, and salt as you like it. Boil it away to three quarts, and then add a pint of wine and half a pint of vinegar. Bottle it, and leave the bottles open two or three days; then cork it tight. Make this catsup once, and you will wish to make it every year.

Here again we see the direction to leave the bottled product exposed to the air, although at least we are down to "two or three days" rather than Mrs. Haskell's outlandish "three months." Since these sauces were to be made when the tomatoes were ripe and then stored for use throughout the year, this instruction is particularly baffling as it seems guaranteed to lead to a putrid, moldy goop in fairly short order.

What we also see is that this was a vastly tangier product than the stuff we dump by the gallon over our burgers and fries today. The catsups of the 19th century were intended for use in very small quantities. Mrs. Cornelius says "This kind of catsup is specially designed to be used in soups, and stewed meats," as a flavor enhancer and appetite stimulant. Ketchup was not a vegetable in those days either.

From the at-least-vaguely-familiar territory of a catsup based on the known tomato, we turn now into the trackless wilderness of those sauces which have gone the way of the dodo and the passenger pigeon in the intervening century. The best known loser in the ketchup evolutionary race, the T-rex of its kind as it were, comes to us from the land of the fungi.

MUSHROOM CATCHUP (from The Cook's Oracle by Dr. William Kitchiner, 1832) (some text omitted as Dr. Kitchiner was an incredibly longwinded twit if you must know, or else he got paid by the word)

1 quart mushrooms
1 and 1/2 oz. black peppercorns, whole
1/2 oz. allspice, whole

...Look out for mushrooms from the beginning of September.

Take care they are the right sort, and fresh gathered. Full-grown flaps are to be preferred: put a layer of these at the bottom of a deep earthen pan, and sprinkle them with salt; then another layer of mushrooms, and some more salt on them; and so on alternately, salt and mushrooms: let them remain two or three hours, by which time the salt will have penetrated the mushrooms, and rendered them easy to break; then pound them in a mortar, or mash them well with your hands, and let them remain a couple of days, not longer, stirring them up and mashing them well each day; then pour them into a stone jar, and to each quart add an ounce and a half of whole black pepper, and half an ounce of allspice; stop the jar very close, and set it in a stew-pan of boiling water, and keep it boiling for two hours at least.

Take out the jar, and pour the juice clear from the settlings through a hair-sieve (without squeezing the mushrooms) into a clean stew-pan; let it boil very gently for half an hour: those who are for superlative catchup, will continue the boiling till the mushroom-juice is reduced to half the quantity; it may then be called double cat-sup or dog-sup.

There are several advantages attending this concentration; it will keep much better, and only half the quantity be required; so you can flavour sauce, &c., without thinning it....

Skim it well and pour it into a clean dry jar, or jug; cover it close, and let it stand in a cool place till next day; then pour it off as gently as possible (so as not to disturb the settlings at the bottom of the jug.) through a tamis, or thick flannel bag, till it is perfectly clear; add a table-spoonful of good brandy to each pint of catchup, and let it stand as before; a fresh sediment will be deposited, from which the catchup is to be quietly poured off, and bottled in pints or half pints (which have been washed with brandy or spirit): it is best to keep it in such quantities as are soon used. Take especial care that it is closely corked, and sealed down, or dipped in bottle cement.

We told you he was longwinded, and that's the trimmed and edited version. Of course the one thing he doesn't go on (and on and on) about are terms which to him were commonplace and everyday, so let's go through a few of them:

--A "hair sieve" is not something you put in the shower drain to keep your follicular rejects from clogging the plumbing at an inconvenient moment, like ever. It isn't even made of hair, but rather of fine threads or wires close together. If a colander is a strainer for big things (for objects the size of beans, spaghetti noodles, etc) then a hair sieve provides the same service for much smaller ones. A common hand-pumped or -cranked flour sifter would qualify as a "hair sieve."

--A "tamis" (pronounced like the name "tammy" on account of it is French) serves much the same function as the hair sieve but the term is more commonly used for a strainer of liquids rather than solids. Usage varies from one time and author to the next. A modern recipe would just say "strain through a doubled layer of cheesecloth." Blessed are the cheesemakers, as the saying goes.

--"From which the catchup is to be quietly poured off" just means pour gently so as not to get the sediment in the bottom of the bottle stirred up and mixed with the liquid.

CELERY CATSUP (Mrs. Haskell)

1 oz celery seed
1 tsp. white pepper, ground
6 oysters
1 tsp. salt
1 qt vinegar (strong--10 percent acid if available)

Mix an ounce of celery seed ground, with a teaspoon of ground white pepper; bruise half a dozen oysters with a teaspoon of salt; mix and pass the whole through a sieve; pour over the mixture one quart of the best white vinegar; bottle and seal tight.

Here we are bruising things again, although at least it's mollusks this time so we trust there was less flinching. Since oysters tend to be of a rather rubbery consistency it may be hard to tell the difference between "bruising" and "mashing to a pulp" but we leave such matters to the discretion of the cook.

Select tomatoes not overripe, skin and strain the tomatoes; to every gallon add three table-spoons of salt, three of ground black pepper, three of mustard, and one teaspoon of ground allspice; mix the spices in a part of the tomato, and strain them through a sieve; put in a small bag four large pods of sweet peppers and, if relished, one onion, and boil them with the catsup while it is being reduced; add the expressed juice of one quart of horseradish, and reduce it until it is of the proper consistency to pour from the bottles without difficulty; let the catsup remain in the bottles, with a piece of cotton cloth tied loosely on the neck, for three months to ripen, when cork and seal tightly.

"Pepper pods" are simply whole peppers, not divisions thereof. Slicing them into strips will both free up flavoring elements and reduce the space the pepper bag takes up in the boiling pot. Depending on the type of pepper used--which is not easy since even producers of "heirloom" vegetables today often trace their varieties back only as far as the late 19th or even early 20th century--you may wish to remove the core and seeds before boiling.

This is of course far from the only version of the condiment even if we confine ourselves strictly to tomatoes here. Mrs. M. H. (Mary Hooker) Cornelius gives us one which is very similar to Mrs. Haskell's above, then the following, which she notes "retain[s] the color and flavor of the Fruit."

PEACH CATSUP (Mrs. Haskell)

(Per quart of resulting juice:)
1 tsp. mace, broken not ground
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. black peppercorns, whole
Strong vinegar

Boil ripe peaches over steam with the pits; press out all the juice; to every quart allow a pound of loaf-sugar; boil without the sugar until it is reduced one-third; add to each quart of juice before boiling a teaspoon of broken, not ground, mace, two of cinnamon, half a teaspoon of cloves, and one of peppercorns; boil all together; when half reduced remove the spices, add the sugar, boil until quite thick, and reduce to a convenient consistency for bottling with strong vinegar.

The "boil over steam" simply means put the cut-up peaches, with their pits, in the top of a double boiler. By this process they can be heated to release their juice without being diluted with water, as would be needed to keep the fruit from burning if it was cooked directly over the heat.

Nearly all recipes from this period for "stone fruits" call for including the pits, both shell and kernel, during cooking. This is not usually advised today since it is now known that the seeds contain a form of cyanide. Not very much per pit, it is true, but one never knows where an individual food sensitivity is liable to pop up. We would suggest only serving the with-pit version to people you particularly dislike, but that raises the question of why you would go to the trouble of making such an exquisite sauce for somebody you dislike? We will leave further discussion of the subject to philosophers.
post #2 of 7
That's pretty cool. The history geek in me will likely try one of them. Thanks for posting!
post #3 of 7
Congrats, excellent research!
post #4 of 7
There is a missing one here though, from Asia and available in Asian markets, Banana Catchup. Before you gag on the idea it's pretty good stuff except your hot dogs like to squirt out of the bun. Hay I'm not kidding here either.
post #5 of 7
I may have to try the mushroom catchup. Thanks.
post #6 of 7
Some unique recipies........... Always cool havine new ways to make things.........
post #7 of 7
Interesting, thanks for posting
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