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Ketchup, also known as catsup, ketsup, red sauce, and tomato sauce, is a sauce used as a condiment. Originally, recipes used egg whites, mushrooms, oysters, grapes, mussels, or walnuts, among other ingredients, but now the unmodified term usually refers to tomato ketchup.

Ketchup is a sweet and tangy sauce now typically made from tomatoes, sugar, and vinegar, with assorted seasonings and spices. The specific spices and flavors vary, but commonly include onions, allspice, coriander, cloves, cumin, garlic, and mustard, and sometimes include celery, cinnamon, or ginger.

The market leader in the United States (60% market share) and United Kingdom (82%) is Heinz. Hunt's has the second biggest share of the US market with less than 20%. In much of the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, ketchup is also known as "tomato sauce" (a term that means a fresher pasta sauce elsewhere in the world) or "red sauce" (especially in Wales).

Tomato ketchup is most often used as a condiment to dishes that are usually served hot and may be fried or greasy: french fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders, tater tots, hot sandwiches, meat pies, cooked eggs, and grilled or fried meat. Ketchup is sometimes used as the basis for, or as one ingredient in, other sauces and dressings, and the flavor may be replicated as an additive flavoring for snacks such as potato chips.

Many variations of ketchup were created, but the tomato-based version did not appear until about a century later after other types. An early recipe for "Tomata Catsup" from 1817 still has the anchovies that betray its fish-sauce ancestry:

  1. Gather a gallon of fine, red, and full ripe tomatas; mash them with one pound of salt.
  2. Let them rest for three days, press off the juice, and to each quart add a quarter of a pound of anchovies, two ounces of shallots, and an ounce of ground black pepper.
  3. Boil up together for half an hour, strain through a sieve, and put to it the following spices; a quarter of an ounce of mace, the same of allspice and ginger, half an ounce of nutmeg, a drachm of coriander seed, and half a drachm of cochineal.
  4. Pound all together; let them simmer gently for twenty minutes, and strain through a bag: when cold, bottle it, adding to each bottle a wineglass of brandy. It will keep for seven years.
By the mid-1850s, the anchovies had been dropped.

James Mease published another recipe in 1812. In 1824, a ketchup recipe using tomatoes appeared in The Virginia Housewife (an influential 19th-century cookbook written by Mary Randolph, Thomas Jefferson's cousin). American cooks also began to sweeten ketchup in the 19th century.

As the century progressed, tomato ketchup began its ascent in popularity in the United States. Ketchup was popular long before fresh tomatoes were. People were less hesitant to eat tomatoes as part of a highly processed product that had been cooked and infused with vinegar and spices.

Tomato ketchup was sold locally by farmers. Jonas Yerkes is credited as the first American to sell tomato ketchup in a bottle. By 1837, he had produced and distributed the condiment nationally. Shortly thereafter, other companies followed suit. F. & J. Heinz launched their tomato ketchup in 1876. Heinz tomato ketchup was advertised: "Blessed relief for Mother and the other women in the household!", a slogan which alluded to the lengthy and onerous process required to produce tomato ketchup in the home. With industrial ketchup production and a need for better preservation there was a great increase of sugar in ketchup, leading to our modern sweet and sour formula. In Australia, it wasn't until the late 19th century that sugar was added to tomato sauce, initially in small quantities, but today contains just as much as American ketchup and only differed in the proportions of tomatoes, salt and vinegar in early recipes.

The Webster's Dictionary of 1913 defined "catchup" as: "table sauce made from mushrooms, tomatoes, walnuts, etc. [Also written as ketchup]."

Modern ketchup emerged in the early years of the 20th century, out of a debate over the use of sodium benzoate as a preservative in condiments. Harvey W. Wiley, the "father" of the Food and Drug Administration in the US, challenged the safety of benzoate which was banned in the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. In response, entrepreneurs including Henry J. Heinz, pursued an alternative recipe that eliminated the need for that preservative. Katherine Bitting, a microbotanist working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, carried out research that proved in 1909 that increasing the sugar and vinegar content of the product would prevent spoilage without use of artificial preservatives. She was assisted by her husband, Arvil Bitting, an official at that agency.

Prior to Heinz (and his fellow innovators), commercial tomato ketchups of that time were watery and thin, in part due to the use of unripe tomatoes, which were low in pectin. They had less vinegar than modern ketchups; by pickling ripe tomatoes, the need for benzoate was eliminated without spoilage or degradation in flavor. But the changes driven by the desire to eliminate benzoate also produced changes[clarification needed] that some experts (such as Andrew F. Smith) believe were key to the establishment of tomato ketchup as the dominant American condiment.

Fresh tomatoes received at a tomato processing plant can be turned into a variety of different products, one of which includes ketchup. The process begins by washing the tomatoes to remove any outer dirt and foreign matter from the skin before processing. Upon inspection, damaged, spoiled or unwanted tomatoes will be sorted out manually. Tomatoes will usually be conveyed by water throughout the preliminary stages to avoid bruising.

After being sorted, washed and chopped up, they proceed into large steel vats for preservation/precooking and also to destroy any bacteria that could be harmful to the rest of the processing period as well as for the consumer after production. The juice will be extracted out by a juice extraction system. The outer skin, seed, stem, and fiber of fruits would be separated from the liquid in a process known as pulping. Once separated, the juice and the pulp from the tomato get filtered and processed into ketchup. A smoother ketchup consistency is achieved through more filtering and screenings, weeding out any excess pulp.

Ketchup processing includes adding additional ingredients, cooking, more screening and filtering, air-removal, packaging and cooling.

After juice filtration, additional ingredients are added to the mixture to achieve the desired taste and consistency. Some of the main ingredients used to create ketchup include sweeteners, vinegar, salt and spices, and flavouring. These additions are usually integrated later on in the process except for some spices added in at the beginning. Throughout the entire process, the temperature must be consistently monitored to make sure all the ingredients are being added and appropriately absorbed. Air is then removed to prevent oxidation, maintain proper colouring and inhibit the growth of any unwanted bacteria. Before being packaged, the ketchup is heated to approx.190 °F (88 °C) to prevent contamination.

After packaging, the bottles are immediately sealed to retain the freshness and preserve the shelf-life of the product. The final step is cooling the product via cold air or water to maintain its flavour.

Different manufacturers will label their products accordingly with all the necessary nutritional and other legal information as required.

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