Everything You Should Know About Ketchup

Ketchup is the sweet, savory, and tastefully tangy classic condiment that can go on anything. Well, maybe not ice cream. Ah what the heck, I’m going to try it. Almost everyone has a bottle in their fridge or pantry and the stuff goes great on a hamburger or hot dog, unless you’re from Chicago. Sporked has already answered the big question of the best ketchup. But there are more questions about the red goopy stuff. When was ketchup invented and who invented it? Does ketchup need to be refrigerated? Does ketchup go bad? Let’s catch up on the ketchup facts.

When was ketchup invented?

Ketchup has actually been around for a long time, but it wasn’t anything like the stuff we use today. It dates back to 300 BCE China. Early ketchup was not made with tomato, it was a fermented fish paste known by the Hokkien Chinese word, kê-tsiap. That fish sauce made its way to Indonesia and the Philippines where British traders went nuts for it in the 1700s. Different types of ketchup sprang up in Britain, with varieties made of mushrooms, oysters, and other ingredients to replicate that fish sauce umami flavor. 

Who invented ketchup as we know it today?

An American named James Mease invented tomato ketchup in 1812. Tomato ketchup became pretty popular, but it spoiled quickly. So some companies pumped their tomato ketchup full of preservatives like sodium benzoate. Tomato ketchup began to get a bad rep as folks started to turn on these chemical preservatives. Then, in 1876, Henry J. Heinz introduced a “chemical-free” tomato ketchup that was kept fresh using vinegar and big ripe tomatoes full of pectin. Heinz’s bottles of tomato ketchup became the standard.

What is ketchup made of?

These days, ketchup is made with tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, and various seasonings and spices depending on the manufacturer. 

How is ketchup made?

Ketchup is made by heating pulped tomatoes to 200˚F. Water is added and the mix is filtered to remove solids. The paste goes through a high-pressure homogenizer to reach the right consistency. It’s then mixed with the other ingredients. 

Is ketchup gluten free? Is ketchup vegan?

Yes, most ketchup is vegan and gluten free. Some of those fancy ketchups can get a little wacky with their artisanal ingredients, though, so just be sure to check the label to make sure. 

Does ketchup go bad?

Ketchup can last a long time, but it can go bad. Unopened ketchup should last for about a year. Once it’s opened, try to use it within six months. 

Does ketchup need to be refrigerated? 

So, should you refrigerate ketchup? It’s a serious question that has broken up families. Does the ketchup go in the fridge or the pantry? Heinz suggests you put that bad boy in the fridge once it’s opened. The bottles actually say, “For Best Results, Refrigerate After Opening.” So, there you go, you should refrigerate your ketchup if you want best results. I keep my ketchup on the shelf, but I live in a meat locker, so it’s cool. Literally.

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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