A Decadent Catsup

Bromide print. Photographed in 1901. Interior view showing oyster stall. [WK/B11/1227]

Bromide print. Photographed in 1901 by George Whitehouse. Interior view showing oyster stall.


It is thought that British explorers brought back Kê-tsiap or kĕchap, a brine of pickled fish or shell-fish, from China and the Malay states in the 18th century and called it Catchup or Catsup. As the Brits have often done with foods from other cultures, we experimented and adapted it to suit our cuisine so there were recipes for cucumber, mushroom or walnut catchup. It wasn’t until a hundred years later that the Americans began to make tomato catsup or ketchup and it began to resemble the tomato ketchup we know today. Oysters and anchovies were cheap in the 19th century and I particularly like this recipe for oyster catchup which requires large quantities!

‘Take 100 of Large Oysters with all their liquor 1lb of anchovies 3 pints of the best white or smyrria raisin Wine, a large Lemon sliced with half its peel let it boil gently for half an hour then strain it off, then add of Cloves & mace & ¼ oz; of nutmeg sh[e]l[le]d a ¼ oz: of black pepper, let it boil a quarter of an hour very gently, then add 2 oz: of shallot, when cold bottle it & put in the spices and shallots’

MS 2757-5-2-3-1 P69

Recipe book from the collection of papers relating to the Dixon and Hornblower families, Great Barr Street, Birmingham. [MS 2757/5/2/3/1 P69]

 If you’re feeling brave, why not have a go? It might make an excellent condiment for a dinner party!


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