Shortly after I started experimenting with fermented foods, I found a recipe for mushroom ketchup. Being American, I had never heard of any type of ketchup that didn’t start out as a tomato except for the banana-based variety that I saw in use in the Philippines while working there years ago. The Philippine version was the outgrowth of World War II when there just weren’t enough tomatoes to go around but there were, apparently, plenty of bananas! Creative Filipinos made ketchup with bananas and just added some red food coloring to make the banana substitute look like the popular tomato-based condiment.
Apparently, though, long before tomatoes became the ketchup of choice, the Brits where making ketchup from mushrooms. In fact, the Brits likely developed the mushroom variety as a result of tasting the fish variety when they were exploring China. It seems ketchup was made from all sorts of ingredients before the tomato became the ingredient of choice!
I tried my hand at mushroom ketchup a few weeks back. Following the recipe in Mary Karlin’s “Mastering Fermentation”, I salted and set out the mushrooms at room temperature for 24 hours. Then I processed the ‘shrooms with spices, shallots, honey, Worcestershire, vinegar and sauerkraut brine in the food processor to make a slurry. I put the slurry in a jar and sealed it with a lid and let it sit at room temperature for a couple of days before putting it in the refrigerator where the flavors continue to gain depth.
To my taste buds, the mushroom ketchup tastes an awful lot like Worcestershire sauce but it has a thicker consistency. I have tried it on steak, on bruschetta, on a pork chop, on pasta and a few other things with mixed results. I found, though, that my favorite use for it is on a hot dog of all things. Having spent half my life in Chicago this makes me chuckle.
You see, one of the local ‘rules’ of hot dogs in the Windy City is that they can be served with just about anything but NEVER with tomato ketchup. You can load a dog up with sauerkraut, sport peppers, dill pickle spears, onions, cheese, celery salt, cucumbers, yellow mustard, neon green relish and even a sliced tomato but don’t even think about tomato ketchup. In fact, there are some hot dog vendors that will refuse to serve you if you ask for tomato ketchup on your dog. Others won’t keep the red condiment in their restaurant.
Given my years of Windy City dog training, I am surprised I even tried the mushroom ketchup on my garlic sausage with sauerkraut, but I did, and I loved it!
Lesson learned: Tomatoes make good ketchup but good ketchup can be made from so much more than just tomatoes.
I’ll be making more of this tangy mushroom condiment. In fact, a couple of months ago I posted about making a pickle crock for a customer. She turned me on to the 18th century cooking of James Townsend and Son and I since found their blog called ‘Savoring the Past‘ where they ran an episode making their version of mushroom ketchup . It looks a bit more complicated than Mary Karlin’s version but I am now itching to give it a try.
And now I am also inspired to finally give that banana ketchup a go next time I see it at a Philippine grocery or life takes me back to Manila. Maybe now that I am off the beaten tomato ketchup path, I’ll track down one of those Asian fish ketchups and give that a try too. Any reader out there have a good recipe for any other tomato-free ketchup they think I should try?