'The Heinz Tomato Ketchup Cookbook' Proves the Condiment's Uses are Almost Infinite

Syracuse New Times | September 17, 2008
In the mid-1990s, salsa replaced ketchup as the most popular condiment in America. While that subtle shift mirrors the blurring of ethnicities in this country, it's interesting that tomatoes form the base for both red gobs. It would be no stretch to substitute salsa, which comes in a rainbow of varieties, for ketchup in all dishes you prepare and all burgers you top (in fact, veggie burgers splotched with ketchup just don't fly). Your taste buds may rebel at first from the jumpier salsa (unlike ketchup, no sugar required), but they'll adjust.

Still, if you remain adamantly anti-immigration -- salsa is a decidedly Hispanic condiment, after all -- you can still have your ketchup and eat it, too. And now there is a tome you can use in the kitchen, dedicated to that dark-red standard. The Heinz Tomato Ketchup Cookbook by Paul Hartley (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, Calif.; 86 pages; $12.95/hardcover) celebrates the Pittsburgh king of the condiment, with nifty historic advertisements, interesting factoids and a surprising number of recipes using Heinz Ketchup.

Of course, any ketchup will do, and the recipes included in the book don't contain much more than 4 tablespoons of the household standard anyway. But Hartley has assembled nearly 180 recipes using ketchup (or catsup, the alternate, although hardly used, spelling) from appetizers to baked goods. The longest chapter, not surprisingly, belongs to meat, which ketchup seems to especially complement, while the shortest contain recipes for starters and bakery; none of the latter are sweets, however, so don't expect a ketchup-filled doughnut.

That was not the author's wish, however. His recipe for ketchup and passion fruit ice cream didn't make the final cut, but you'll find it at the end of this article. "It's truly delicious and works exceptionally well with smoked meat and fish starters as it does a great dessert with a vine of red currants," he wrote in an email. (The author lives in near Bath in southwest England, and email was the most practical way to communicate with him.)

The Hot Shoppe, 311 S. Clinton St., has been a source of condiments for nearly 20 years. Inventory is dwindling while the Armory Square shop converts to an all-internet business, but a few hepped-up ketchups are available. You can try the Jack Daniel's Jalapeno Pepper, the Tabasco Spicy or the Iguana Catsup with a Kick, but it'll cost you more than Heinz. The Iguana variety is about $8 a bottle.

Like many foods we eat today, ketchup has its roots in ancient China. The word itself is derived from the Chinese ke-tsiap, a pickled fish sauce. It traveled to Malaysia where it became kechap and ketjap in Indonesia. Seventeenth-century English sailors discovered the condiment and brought it west; it was first mentioned in print in 1690.

The Chinese version is more like soy sauce; tomatoes were added in the 1700s. By the 19th century, ketchup was also known as tomato soy. F&J Heinz Company began selling the condiment in 1876; the company's first product was actually horseradish. By 1905 Heinz was producing more than 5 million bottles worldwide, a number that would double in two years, and it became known as tomato ketchup. In 1987, the plastic bottle with flip-top cap replaced the glass bottles that graced diner counters everywhere. In 2003, the top-down bottle hit grocery store shelves.

By the way, catsup isn't a fancy-pants British spelling; it's an outmoded one that actually originated in America. It was initially spelled "catchup," a strange hybridization of the two modern spellings. Once Heinz started spelling it with a k, and national magazine and television advertising standardized things, the k stuck.

The company, which helped John Kerry run for president in 2004 (his wife Teresa is a Heinz widow, having been married to Pennsylvania Sen. H. John Heinz III; he died in a 1991 helicopter crash), celebrated its 130th birthday in 2006. Today Heinz sells 650 million bottles of ketchup a year and it can be found in 97 percent of American households.

But back to the cookbook, and why Hartley, a seasoned cookbook author, focused on ketchup this time around. "I've already written a book on Colman's English Mustard. The joy to me is to understand why and how these iconic brands, all over 100 years old, have survived to today's intense food service competition. The reason in the main is that they are good and comfortable plate fellows. Chefs the world over can make mayonnaise better than you'll find in a jar, but I have never yet met a chef who confesses that his tomato ketchup is better than Heinz.

"The other reason that I love writing about iconic food brands is that for most people they are limited in creative use. For example, ketchup is only used on chips or on steak or in pasta sauce. I demonstrate how to use these ingredients in a much more lateral way."

Unlike locally grown tomatoes, ketchup is available year-round and, thanks to the uniformity of the manufacturing process, you'll never get a bottle of Heinz ketchup that tastes different, or flows more quickly, from the next one. In fact, if the goods pour at more than .028 mph, the batch is rejected.

Ketchup and Passion Fruit Ice Cream

Divine on its own or a perfect accompaniment to a mixed seafood or smoked fish salad or antipasto.

8 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh passion fruit pulp (or 4 to 6 passion fruit)
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
4 tablespoons Heinz Tomato Ketchup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
11/4 cups heavy cream
Put the egg yolks and sugar into a food processor and blend until they turn a pale creamy color. Add the passion fruit, tomatoes, ketchup and lemon juice and blitz again for about 30 seconds. In a separate large bowl whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks. Pour in the blended mixture and fold in the cream with a plastic spatula until it is well combined. Put into a plastic tub and freeze for about 45 minutes.

Remove from the freezer and stir the ice cream well. Leave again in the freezer for 45 minutes, remove and repeat the stirring. This will avoid the ice cream crystallizing. You may need to do this once more until the ice cream is completely frozen. Flavors can be blunted by the cold so leave to stand at room temperature for a few minutes before serving decorated with a stem of fresh red currants and some dark chocolate shavings. Makes 2 quarts.

Bloody Mary Macaroni

While these recipes call for Heinz ketchup, naturally, any type will do. In fact, try to jazz things up with any number of flavored ketchups.

1 medium onion, diced
Olive oil
1 14 1/2-ounce can chopped Italian plum tomatoes
1/3 cup vodka
1 tablespoon sherry
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash of tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
Ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1 vegetable bouillon cube
3/4 pound macaroni
Ground black pepper
Handful of torn basil, for garnish
Parmesan shavings, for garnish
To make the sauce, in a large frying pan, cook the onion in a little oil, then add the rest of the sauce ingredients except the herbs. Increase the heat and cook fairly rapidly for 8 to 10 minutes, until you can no longer smell alcohol in the steam and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the herbs, remove pan from the heat, and set aside.

Bring a pan of water to a boil, crumble in the bouillon cube, and add the macaroni. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the pasta is just al dente. Drain and drizzle with a little olive oil and season with pepper.

Reheat the sauce if necessary, serve the macaroni in warmed bowls, and pour over the sauce. Garnish with the basil leaves and Parmesan shavings. Makes 4 servings.

Wild Mushroom Diablo

1/2 pound mixed fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
Generous pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Wedges of warm crusty bread, for dunking
Clean the mushrooms, trim the stems and break up any larger pieces. In a small bowl, mix together the ketchup, soy sauce, mustard and cayenne. Heat the butter in a frying pan. When it just begins to foam, add the mushrooms and saute gently for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat a little, stir in the ketchup mixture and cook for 1 minute. Add the cream and continue cooking for a couple of minutes longer. Taste the sauce–you can add more cayenne, if you wish. Pour the mushrooms into warmed soup bowls and garnish with the parsley. Serve with the bread. Makes 2 servings.

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