From hamburgers and French fries to hot dogs and meatloaf, there’s one condiment that you’ll find in just about every refrigerator around the country. What are we talking about? Ketchup, of course! Or is it catsup?
If you look in the condiment section at your local grocery store, you might find this popular tomato-based sauce labeled as either “ketchup” or “catsup.” So which is it?
You can actually call the substance by either name, as there’s no difference between ketchup and catsup. They’re just two different terms for the same thing.
Ketchup has been around a long time. The name probably comes from ke-chiap (sometimes written ke-tsiap), which was a pickled fish sauce popular in China. European traders loved the sauce and brought it west with them in the 17th century.
Others believe the name may have come from Indonesia, where kicap (or kecap or ketjap) was a sauce made of brined shellfish, herbs and spices. Whatever the exact origin of the term, Europeans began calling their version of the sauce “ketchup” as early as 1711.
The alternative spelling — catsup — popped up in a Jonathon Swift poem in 1730. For many years, you could also find the sauce called “catchup” in many places.
It would be another 70 years or so before the sauce recipe would incorporate tomatoes and resemble the condiment we know today. In the early 1800s, the tomato-based version of the sauce quickly became popular in the United States.
At first, it was made primarily by local farmers. By 1837, though, at least one company was making ketchup and distributing it around the nation.
The H.J. Heinz Company didn’t start producing the sauce until 1876. The company originally called it catsup, but soon switched to ketchup to stand out. Today, ketchup is the standard, while catsup is still used occasionally in the southern U.S.
Today, most ketchup — or catsup — contains the same basic ingredients: tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt, allspice, cloves and cinnamon. Manufacturers vary their recipes by adding vegetables, such as onions and celery, as well as other spices, including pepper and garlic.