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Colonial Cooking: Mushroom Ketchup

By Heather Lodge

The hearth was the heart of a colonial home. It provided people with warmth, light, and most importantly, food. Almost everything a colonial family ate would have been prepared on the hearth. In this mini-series, I am going to show you how I make some of my hearth cooking staples.

Please note that not all fireplaces, even in colonial buildings, are equipped to be cooking hearths. I am a professional with years of training who knows how to cook using a hearth. Please do not try this in a fireplace at home.

Today’s recipe is one that can be replicated using a campfire or stove-top. If you would like to give it a try, please make sure that campfires are safely constructed, ovens are used with care, and a responsible adult is present at all times.

Today’s Recipe: Mushroom Ketchup

For most of history, ketchup was not the sweet, red, tomato sauce we know and love today. Ketchup’s history started over 2000 years ago in China, where it began as a fermented fish sauce. In the 1600s, the British were introduced to the savory sauce and fell in love with it. Not only was it delicious, but it could safely sit on a shelf for months, making it invaluable in the days before refrigeration.

Most types of ketchup in the 1600s and 1700s were made from fish, oysters, mushrooms, and/or walnuts. They tasted a lot like modern Worcestershire sauce. (So if you like Chex Mix, there is a good chance you will like this!)

When I make historical ketchup, I use mushrooms as my base.


Step 1

Cut two pounds of mushrooms into small pieces.

Put the mushrooms into a bowl with salt and a couple of bay leaves, then leave it to sit overnight.

By the next morning, the mushrooms will have released all of their juices, which is the goal.

Step 2

On the second day, add:

  • a chopped onion
  • lemon zest
  • half a thumb of grated horseradish
  • a couple of cloves
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • a larger pinch of allspice
  • half a cup of apple cider vinegar

Stir this together in a pot, put it on the stove, and let it boil for 15-20 minutes.

Step 3

When the mushroom mixture is done cooking, set it aside to cool. This might take up to an hour.

When cool, pour what liquid you can from the mushroom mixture into a bowl.

Put the solids, a ladle-full at a time, into a cheesecloth.

Squeeze the mixture in the cheesecloth over the bowl of liquid until there is no liquid left in the cheesecloth.

Repeat until all the solids have been wrung out.  

Step 4

At this point, you will have a bowl of liquid and a bowl of solids.

The solids are actually delicious! Save them as a seasoning for other dishes!

As for the liquid, pour it into a bottle, and you’re done!

Mushroom ketchup goes well with a wide variety of meats and vegetables.
Have fun experimenting with what you’d like to put it on

By Heather Lodge

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