Monday, May 20, 2019

A Ketchup Adventure--Part II

This past weekend, I heated my 20 ounces of mushrooms in the slow cooker pot, after salting them.  I started the pot on low heat, and after about an hour changed over to the "keep warm" setting.

About three hours later, there seemed to be a considerable puddle of liquid in the pot.  I dumped that liquid into a saucepan, put the mushroom onto a cloth which I placed inside a large bowl, and squeezed the mushroom through the cloth till I was only getting drops.  Like Hvitr, I ended up with about 220 ml or one cup (8 ounces) of mushroom liquid.  Then I added spices as per the recipe Hvitr used.  I tried to keep the pan on a "simmer" but even when I turned it down, it bubbled.  After 15 minutes, I strained the liquid into a bowl to cool, wetted a clean spoon in it, and tasted it. 

It tasted mostly of salt, rather the way soy sauce does, but without the sour note that I've never liked in soy sauce.  I didn't detect any of the spices, but that may be due to the amount of salt I used (I didn't really measure), and the fact that the liquid hadn't yet cooled when I tasted it.  I also failed to remove the stalks from the mushrooms; it's not yet clear what effect, if any, that might have had.  

The slow cooker worked well to heat the mushrooms for purposes of extracting the liquor, but I may want to experiment with other spice combinations.  There are a fair number of mushroom ketchup recipes on the Internet, including modern ones, and every recipe I've read so far is different.  The spices in the 18th century recipe Hvitr used are common, but others occur too, including garlic, cayenne,  nutmeg, allspice, and mustard seeds.  I have not found all of those spices in any one recipe, though some modern recipes have a very long list of ingredients (such as this one).

What all of this says to me is that there's no common factor among mushroom ketchup recipes other than the fact that your mushrooms need to be salted somewhat and given time, or heat, or both, in order for their juices to leach out before you proceed further.  To a modern cook, I'd simply say to read a bunch of mushroom ketchup recipes and pick the procedure, and the spices, that suit your needs and resources best.  As an amateur food historian, I throw up my hands and say probably every cook had a different recipe, and only a fraction of those variations made it into the cookbooks. But I suspect that the recipe Hvitr used is pretty typical for the 18th century except for the absence of nutmeg (nutmeg was a very popular spice during that period).

After I've had a chance to use my ketchup, I'll comment further.  In the meantime, I encourage my readers to experiment, and have fun.

(EDIT:  5/22/2019)  My ketchup turned out way too salty; I can't taste any other flavors.  But there's a good umami quality with the saltiness, and as a flavoring for stew it would be useful.  I should use less salt next time.

(EDIT:  5/26/2019)  On the other hand, I sauteed the squeezed mushrooms along with some fresh ones and some leeks, and the result tasted quite good!  So I'm not afraid to try this one again, sometime.  Probably I'll use less salt, and more spices.  


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience with the ketchup recipe! It's great to hear how it went for you. Mine turned out a bit less salty than yours by the sound of it, still quite salty but not overpoweringly so. I'd agree that it's similar to soy sauce insofar as it has a strong umami profile, but without the kind of sour undertone soy sauce has.

    1. My ketchup actually was less salty a week later than after I first made it. It does have strong umami flavor, but not much else. I think I will definitely increase the spices in my next batch.

    2. Some nutmeg or allspice would probably be a fine addition too. Thinking about your experience with the leeks and squeezed mushrooms, I'm wondering whether leek and potato soup would benefit from a little splash of mushroom ketchup - must try that next time I make it.

    3. I should look for a leek and potato soup recipe, since Eric loves leeks.

    4. They're one of my favourite veges too.