26 June 2020

Ketchup vs Mustard

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Ketchup and mustard

Grilling season, which is Poland's equivalent to the American BBQ season, is now in full bloom, having started, as always, during the national holidays of early May. The coronavirus pandemic hasn't stopped people from grilling meat in their backyards. So it's a good occasion to say something about the condiments that are indispensable at any grill party: mustard and ketchup. We're gonna start with a little bit of history and then, together with fellow blogger Michał Górecki, we'll try to make both condiments according to old recipes and see (and taste) how they compare with their modern, store-bought, versions.

But first I'd like to thank Górek for his hospitality and help, and to also thank Marcin Kuc from Jaja w Kuchni for participating in the tasting session. A video recording of this endeavour is to be found at the very bottom of this post.

Mustard, “an Uncommon Condiment”[edit]

Let's start with mustard, a condiment of a truly ancient pedigree. If you take a jar of mustard from your fridge and read the list of ingredients on the label, you'll see it's made mostly of mustard seeds, vinegar, salt and sugar. The composition is so simple you could quite easily make your own mustard at home (more about it later). What's more, the list of ingredients has remained pretty much unchanged for centuries. Mustard seeds are, of course, the key ingredient, so let's first say few words about them.

Mustard plant's family relations. Can you imagine living without the cabbage family?

The mustard plant, which looks quite similar to rapeseed (or what North Americans call "canola") with its bright-yellow flowers, produces seeds with a very specific taste. But what taste exactly? The plant's Polish name, "gorczyca" suggests bitterness ("goryczka"). But chew a few seeds and you'll notice that they are actually sweetish and very piquant, but not exactly bitter. So where did the plant get its Polish name from? Most likely from the verb "gorzeć", "to burn"; apparently, both bitterness and the taste of raw mustard seeds were formerly described as a burning sensation.

Mustard seeds come in three varieties: white, brown and black. In fact, the brown and black ones are more closely related to cabbage that to the white mustard, but let's leave the botanical taxonomy aside and just continue to refer to all three as "mustard".

Mustard seeds have been known to humanity for ages. As an example, let me quote the following simile employed by one itinerant rabbi two thousand years ago:

What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.
— Jesus of Nazareth, quoted in: Luke, 13:18–19; in: Holy Bible: New International Version, 1978
Ἔλεγεν οὖν Τίνι ὁμοία ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ τίνι ὁμοιώσω αὐτήν; ὁμοία ἐστὶν κόκκῳ σινάπεως, ὃν λαβὼν ἄνθρωπος ἔβαλεν εἰς κῆπον ἑαυτοῦ, καὶ ηὔξησεν καὶ ἐγένετο εἰς δένδρον, καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατεσκήνωσεν ἐν τοῖς κλάδοις αὐτοῦ.

But wait, what did he mean by "tree"? Mustard is an annual plant, it doesn't grow more than 60 cm tall. Did Jesus get confused or was he misquoted by Luke or mistranslated by Bible scholars?

Anyway, ancient Romans found out that mustard seeds' sharp taste may be somewhat blunted by mixing them with sour-tasting grape must. They called this mixture "burning must", or "mustum ardens" in Latin, which, as you may have guessed, is where the English word "mustard" comes from. This condiment survived the fall of the Roman Empire and was quite commonplace in medieval Europe. By that time, however, the must would have been usually replaced with verjuice (unripe-grape juice), wine (the famous Dijon mustard, for example, still has some white wine added to it) or vinegar.

The fact that mustard was commonly known throughout Europe doesn't mean that medieval Europeans didn't have their stereotypes about specific nations' supposed love for the condiment. One such stereotype was best illustrated by Eustache Deschamp, a 15th-century pioneer of French culinary chauvinism who didn't care for any food outside the borders of France. I already once quoted his not too flattering description of Czech cuisine; now it's time for a poem about Belgian cookery.

An oakwood signboard for the French mustard company Amora, used at the Dijon Gastronomy Fair in 1930.

In Hainaut and Brabant I made
Attempts to order sauce with care,
But in every inn at which I stayed
They always brought me, with my fare,
With every roast and mutton dish,
With boar, with rabbit, and with bustard,
With fresh and with salt-water fish,
Always, never asking, mustard.

I took fresh herring, said I’d like
Carp at the pub for midday dinner,
And called for simple boiled pike
And some large sole, to be my supper.
In Brussels, I asked them for green sauce;
A cleric stared and looked disgusted
And a varlet brought me in, of course,
As always, never asking, mustard.

I couldn’t eat or drink without it.
They add it to the water they
Boil the fish in and – don’t doubt it –
The drippings from the roast each day
Are tossed into a mustard vat
In which they’re mixed, and then entrusted
To those who bring – they’re quick at that –
Always, never asking, mustard.

Prince, it’s clear that ginger, clove,
Saffron, pepper are never trusted.
There’s just one thing these people serve:
Always, never asking, mustard.

Eustache Deschamps: Tousjours, sanz demander, moustarde, in: Selected Poems, trans. David Curzon, Jeffrey Fiskin; ed. Ian S. Laurie, Deborah M. Sinnreich-Levi, New York – London: Routledge, 2003, p. 116

En Haynaut et en Brabant ay
Aprins a sauces ordonner;
Es hostez ou je me logay
Me fist on toudiz apporter
A rost, a mouton, a sangler,
A lievre, a connin, a ostarde,
A poisson d’eaue douce et mer
Tousjours, sanz demander, moustarde.

Harens fres quiz et demanday
Carpe au cabaret pour dyner,
Bequet en l’eaue y ordonnay
Et grosses solles au soupper;
A Brusselles fiz demander
Sauce vert; le clerc me regarde;
Par un varlet me fist donner
Tousjours sans demander moustarde.

Sanz li ne bu ne ne mengay;
Avec l’eaue la font meller
Du poisson et ancor say
Que la graisse du rost gester
Font en la moustarde et bouster.
D’en servir nulz d’eux ne retarde;
La arez vous pour vostre user
Tousjours sanz demander moustarde.

Prince, gingembre, c’est tout cler,
Clos, sapfran, graine n’ont d’eulx garde
Maiz a chascun font destramper
Tousjours sanz demander moustarde.

Polish mustard advertisement from 1934

And when did mustard find its way into Poland? Probably no later than in the Middle Ages, although the earliest known written mentions of it come only from the 17th century. This what Polish Renaissance physician and botanist Szymon Syreński (also known as Simon Syrenius) wrote about it:

Mustard seeds are made into a peculiar and healthy delicacy which is commonly used at the table, especially in the colder seasons. This delicacy is known as "gorczyczka", or by the foreign name "mustarda", and everyone makes it according to their own liking. […] Some simply grind fresh mustard seeds […] and then dissolve them in sweet wine and honey. Others add sugar and vinegar. Others still add finely chopped, honeyed orange zest, which lends the mustard a peculiar taste. Some mix their mustard with pears or skinned dates, as well as with quince, and season it with cinnamon and cloves […]
Szymon Syreński: Zielnik herbarzem z języka łacińskiego zowią, Kraków: 1613, p. 1205; quoted in: Jarosław Dumanowski: Staropolskie przepisy kulinarne: Receptury rozproszone z XVI–XVIII w.: Źródła drukowane, Warszawa: Muzeum Pałacu Króla Jana III w Wilanowie, 2016, p. 305, own translation
Z gorczycy czynią przysmak bardzo osobliwy i zdrowy, którego pospolicie używają przy stole, zwłaszcza czasów zimnych. Ten przysmak zowią właśnie u nas „gorczyczka”, z cudzoziemska „mustarda”, którą każdy według swej woli i upodobania czyni […] Jedni po prostu wiercą nasienie gorczyczne co najświeższe […], a uwierciszy go w donicy, winem słodkim a miodem roztwarzają. Drudzy kładą cukier a octem rozpuszczają. Inni skórki pomarańczowe w miodzie przyprawione drobno siekają i w mostardę kładą, które smak osobliwy czynią. Niektórzy z gdulami [t.j. gruszkami] albo z da[k]t[y]lami z skórek i z błonek swych ochędożonymi, jako z pigwami, przyprawują, przydając cynamonu, goździków […]

As you can see, even back then Polish people knew quite a few mustard varieties, perhaps even more than the typical modern choice of deli, "French", "Russian", brown, horseradish and honey mustards that you can buy in any Polish supermarket. In Stanisław Czerniecki's Compendium Ferculorum, the oldest printed cookbook in Polish, there's only one recipe for this "niepospolity condiment", or "uncommon condiment" (it calls for mustard seeds, wine, vinegar, pears, raisins and sugar),[1], but you can find more in other Old-Polish advice books. Curiously, most of them recommend making your mustard sweet. Sweet mustard may not be very surprising (honey mustard is still quite popular in our own times), but the very diversity of possible sweet ingredients could boggle you mind. What has caught my attention is an 18th-century recipe for mustard flavoured with pears and honey cake (a kind of gingerbread), which you will find at the end of this post.

As new mustard recipes were being developed, so did novel ways to serve the mustard on the table in an elegant way. You may remember Adam Mickiewicz's poetic description of the elaborate centrepiece of Soplicowo. According to Jędrzej Kitowicz, an indispensable element of such a centrepiece were spherical receptacles he called "bubbles", sitting snugly in metal rings welded to vertical parts of the structure.

Silver bubbles with spoons of the same metal, gilded inside
In each of these rings there was a lidded bubble, fashioned either out of silver or crystal with silver elements. These bubbles […] were placed inside […] the rings so that they wouldn't be tipped by accident. They were filled with vinegar, olive oil, sugar […] and mustard, which the diners used, when […] wishing to enhance the flavour of some dish according to the subtlety of their palates. Mustard was used with boiled meats and grilled sausages, which they believed to be more healthy and flavourful when eaten with this condiment. […] In the mustard bubble there was a proportionally sized spoon, silver, gilded inside, with a crooked handle. Whoever wished for some oil or vinegar, could just open the lid and pour the liquid; mustard, however, was thicker and wouldn't pour so easily, hence the spoon, without which the diner would either pour too much by tilting the bubble excessively or wait too long for the thick mass to ooze out.
O stołach i bankietach pańskich, in: Jędrzej Kitowicz: Opis obyczajów i zwyczajów za panowania Augusta III, vol. 3, Poznań: Edward Raczyński, 1840, p. 165–167, own translation
W każdej z tych obrączek stała wetkniętą bańka misterna z nakrywadłem srebrna, albo też kryształowa srebrem w kilkoro obwiedziona; te bańki […] dlatego osadzone były w […] obrączki, ażeby nie podlegały nieostrożnemu wywróceniu. Służyły zaś do octu, oliwy, cukru […] i musztardy, których ingrediencji panowie zażywali, gdy […] jakiej potrawie smaku lepszego podług dotkliwości języka swego przydać chcieli; musztardę zaś brali do sztuki mięsa i kiełbasy pieczonej, z którą kiełbasę sądzili być zdrowszą i smaczniejszą. […] W bańce z musztardą była łyżeczka proporcjonalna do bańki z trzonkiem zakrzywionym, głęboka jak wiaderko, srebrna, w środku wyzłacana […] Bańki z oliwą i octem kto potrzebował, odkrył przykrywadło i nalał sobie likworu łatwo ciekącego. Że zaś musztarda, jako gęściejsza, nie tak łatwy ciek miała, dlatego do niej przydawano łyżkę, bez której nalewający musztardy, albo by za zbytnim nachyleniem bańki razem wiele nalał, albo za małym długo by ciągnącej się masy powoli czekał.

Ketchup, “Something Akin to Kabul”[edit]

Strawberry and and red-currant-flavoured ketchups made in Poland. Source: Twitter.

In August last year, a Polish news portal published an article entitled "Strawberry Ketchup from Włocławek: Internet Users in Shock". As usual in modern journalism, the article was based entirely on two tweets. One of them, by Mr. Michał Jadczak, contained a picture of two red plastic bottles with labels reading, in Polish, "Ketchup with strawberries" and "Ketchup with red currants". The picture was captioned: "Scandal! Sacrilege! The end is nigh..:/". In their comments, many Twitter users expressed their dismay at someone's nerve to adulterate ketchup with fruits of plants other than tomato. Some linked this scandal to the momentous fact that Włocławek-brand ketchup was actually no longer made in the town of Włocławek (pronounced vwawts-WAH-veck).

If you, too, are shocked by strawberry ketchup, then what would you say to mushroom ketchup? Or walnut ketchup? Oyster ketchup, anyone? It turns out that the origin of this condiment is no less ancient than that of mustard, but while we would easily recognize mustum ardens from centuries ago as mustard, we would be hard pressed to recognize original ketchup as ketchup. It has come a long way to become the uniform, thick, red, sweet sauce we know today.

Ketchup began its career somewhere in Southeast Asia as… fish sauce. It was originally made by salting fish blood and innards, as well as whole fish that were too small for any other use, and leaving the whole mess to pickle. The smell must have been overwhelming, but only at the beginning of the process. As the mixture was fermenting, the scent and the taste were becoming milder and more palatable. The liquid thus obtained was a natural source of monosodium glutamate; in other words, a kind of ancient Maggi seasoning. In the Chinese dialect spoken in northern Vietnam, this sauce was called "kê-tsiap".

Approximate ranges of fermented-sauces usage in East and Southeast Asia[2]
  Soy sauce
  Fish sauce

What's interesting, this kind of sauce was most popular in southern China, Indochina and Indonesia – but not further north, in most of China, Korea and Japan. Why? Well, in the north there was an easier-to-make alternative: the soy sauce. Fish sauce, on the other hand, was also produced in the Mediterranean Sea basin. Manufacture of various kinds of fish sauce (such as liquamen, which was used for cooking, and garum, a table seasoning) was a big business in ancient Rome. I once visited in Barcelona the ancient ruins of a fish-sauce factory, which had stood next door to an ancient winery. Which means that must, which was used to make old-time mustard, was produced right next to fish sauce, closely related to the ancestor of modern ketchup.

Alas, the technology of fish-sauce production, unlike that of mustard, was gradually forgotten after the fall of the Roman civilization (it did survive somewhat longer in the Byzantine Empire). In Italy, garum was eventually replaced by another delicacy, made from salted, fermented and pressed fish roe, known as botargo. It wasn't until the Age of Exploration that Europeans could come across fish sauces again.

But by the time the English could first sample something the locals in Indonesia referred to as "kecap", this word had already expanded its meaning to cover all kinds of sauces; in fact, modern Indonesians use it mostly when talking about soy sauce. The English borrowed the word and used it for condiments that were meant to last long, as opposed to sauces, which were prepared just before a meal. Ketchup, or catsup, could be bottled and stored for months or even years. One 18th-century British cookbook contains a recipe "to make ketch-up that will keep twenty years".[3] Apart from fish and mushroom ketchups, popular varieties included ketchups made from oysters or unripe walnuts, but recipes are also known for cucumber, plum, gooseberry, grape, peach, pepper, bean, lobster, liver, mussel and even herring ketchups (I need to try out the herring one someday). What did they all have in common? Preservatives – usually salt and vinegar, the latter sometimes replaced with strong wine, stale beer or cider, as well as exotic spices, such as ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

Take walnuts while green, beat them well in a mortar and strain the juice. Let it stand for twelve hours, then to a quart of the fine juice put six herrings with a little of the pickle, having cut the herrings very fine. Put the mixture in a stewpan, adding to it a little mace, about twenty cloves, and half an ounce of alspice. Boil the whole over a slow fire for half an hour, then strain it through a fine cloth, put again into the pan, adding to it twenty or thirty eschalots and half a pint of vinegar. Let it boil till the eschalots are tender, then put it into a basin to cool, when cool run it through a fine cloth and bottle it for use.
Excellent Catsup, in: Richard Alsop: The Universal Receipt Book or Complete Family Directory by a Society of Gentlemen in New York, New York: I. Riley, 1814, p. 249; quoted in: Andrew F. Smith: Pure Ketchup: A History of America's National Condiment, with Recipes, Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1996, p. 163

By the 18th century, ketchup had become a familiar condiment throughout the British Empire. Jonathan Swift, known especially as the author of Gulliver's Travels, gave "catsup" as an example of "home-bred British" food, as opposed to French "soups and fricassees", in one of his satirical poems. He mentioned catsup in the same line as caviar and the aforementioned botargo, which shows that it was still classified as seafood.

Then Gluttony, with greasy paws,
Her napkin pinn'd up to her jaws, […]
Wedged in a spacious elbow-chair,
And on her plate a treble share,
As if she ne'er could have enough,
Taught harmless man to cram and stuff.
She sent her priest in wooden shoes
From haughty Gaul to make ragoos;
Instead of wholesome bread and cheese,
To dress their soups and fricassees;
And, for our home-bred British cheer,
Botargo, catsup, and caveer.

Jonathan Swift: Panegyric on the Dean in the Person of a Lady in the North, in: The British Poets, vol. XXXVIII, Chiswick: Press of C. Whittingham, 1822, p. 116–117
Modern mushroom ketchup

Ketchup could have been made from almost anything, so it was just a matter of time until someone got the idea of making ketchup out of tomatoes. But who? The tomato plant isn't native to either Indonesia or the British Isles. Long after the first specimens were brought from America, Europeans were still apprehensive about it, because it reminded them of deadly nightshade, henbane bell and other related, highly toxic plants. It follows that tomato ketchup was invented on the same continent the tomato comes from. At the turn of the 19th century, tomato ketchup was already a popular condiment in the newly established United States of America. Just like other ketchups, it was enhanced by the addition of vinegar, spices and, starting in the 1840s, sugar (which also played the role of a preservative). Ketchup was starting to taste like it does today. And what did it look like? Old varieties of tomato were yellow (hence its Italian name, "pomo d'oro", or "golden apple", which has been borrowed into Polish and a few other languages). And ketchup was often strained and filtered, so it was a runny yellowish liquid rather than a thick red sauce.

It took a long time for the Polish people to learn what ketchup is and even longer for them to acquire a taste for it. First advertisements for "wallnut ketchup", an exotic sauce imported from Britain, started to appear in Warsaw newspapers around the middle of the 19th century.

Cured meats, smoked tongues and Hamburg Schlackwurst, as well as Mixed Picle, Picca-lilly, Salad Cream, Beefsteak Sauce, India Soya, John Bull Sauce, Wallnut Ketchup, Toniatta and many other sauces, sardines in smaller and larger tins, English Chester cheese have arrived by rail and may be purchased at A. Keolichen's delicatessen at Długa Street […]
Advertisement for the Koelichen delicatessen, in: Kurier Warszawski, 132, Warszawa: 23 May 1850, p. 702, own translation (English words left in their original spelling)
Pekeflejsz, ozory wędzone i Schlak-Wurst Hamburskie, jakoteż świeże Mixed Picle, Picca-lilly, Salad Cream, Beefsteak Sauce, India Soya, John Bull Sauce, Wallnut Ketchup, Toniatta, i wiele innych; Sardynki w mniejszych i większych puszkach, Ser angielski Chester, nadeszły Koleją żelażną, i nabyć ich można w handlu A. Koelichen przy ulicy Długiej […]

In 1885, one advocate for modern agriculture tried to teach Polish land owners to preserve their produce in the form of ketchup. For him, ketchup was still a runny sour liquid and not a thick syrupy sauce.

There are two kinds of fruit juices. One kind is more or less sweetened with sugar and is used for flavouring beverages, such as water, tea or vodka, as well as flour-based dishes and ice cream. The other kind is seasoned with more or less vinegar and is used as a condiment for meat dishes. The latter kind is used by the English and the Americans, who call it "ketchup". To differentiate between the two, […] we shall refer to the latter kind by its English name, Polonized from "ketchup" to "kwasób". […]

Kwasób may be made from tomatoes, walnuts or cucumbers. English ketchup is always well seasoned with vinegar, salt, pepper, paprika, sometimes also mustard seeds or ginger, nutmeg, etc.

Józef Bohdan Rogojski: Owocarstwo, czyli Nowe sposoby użytkowania z owoców drzew owocowych w klimacie naszym wzrastających, Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Przeglądu Tygodniowego, 1885, p. 65, 67
Soki owocowe są dwojakie. Jedne są mniej lub więcej cukrzone i służą do zaprawienia napojów, np. wody, herbaty i wódki, tudzież potraw mącznych i do robienia lodów. Drugie są mniej lub więcej octem zaprawione i służą do potraw mięsnych. Ten rodzaj soków jest przez Anglików i Amerykanów używany i nazywa się keczup. Dla rozróżnienia […] zostawmy [drugim] ich nazwę angielską, zmienioną z keczup na kwasób. […]

Kwasób bywa pomidorowy, orzechowy lub ogórkowy. Każdy keczup angielski jest mocno octem, solą, pieprzem, papryką, niektóry zarazem gorczycą lub imbirem, gałką muszkatową itp. przyprawiony.

I think it's a great loss to Polish vocabulary that the word he coined, "kwasób" (pronounced KFAH-soop, from "kwas", "sour"), has never caught on. Instead, Polish people are stuck with a poorly adopted borrowing on which they can't even agree how to spell ("ketchup" or "keczup"?) nor how to read (KEH-choop or KEH-chahp?), and which remained quite obscure well into the 20th century. A Polish-English phrasebook from 1903 translated the menu item "fried oysters with ketchup" as "ostrygi pieczone z rajskimi jabłuszkami",[4] which literally means "oysters roasted with apples of paradise". Apparently, whoever devised the phrasebook was convinced that not only "ketchup", but even "pomidor" (the Polish word for "tomato"), would have been unfamiliar to the average Pole.

Between the World Wars, tomato ketchup (and its advertisements) was already a common sight in the United States. According to a correspondent of a Polish newspaper of that time, all dishes in America were doused with such liberal quantities of ketchup that they all tasted exactly the same.

All kinds of meat are seasoned in the same fashion, smothered under incredible amounts of pepper and the ubiquitous, heavily advertised sauces called "Chilli" or "Ketchup". If you were served such an otherwise delicious dish as roast duck with oranges, you would only know that it's a duck from reading the menu, because it wouldn't taste any different from other scraps of meat drowned in advertised sauces and condiments.
Kłopoty gastronomiczne w kraju dolara: w Ameryce nie wszystko jest dobre, in: ABC – Nowiny Codzienne, No. 215, Warszawa: Mazowiecka Spółka Wydawnicza, 29 July 1935, p. 6, own translation
Wszystkie mięsiwa przyprawia się jednakowo, do wszystkich dodaje się niesłychane ilości pieprzu i nieodzownego, reklamowanego sosu „Chili” lub „Ketchup”. Gdyby wam nawet podano tak pyszną w zasadzie potrawę jak kaczka pieczona z pomarańczami, dowiecie się o tym, że jest to kaczka, tylko z karty potraw, w smaku kaczka nie będzie się niczym różniła od innych ochłapów tonących w reklamowanych sosach i przyprawach.
Stanisław Fenrych (1883–1955)

That's not to say ketchup wasn't increasingly advertised in Interbellum Poland itself. What's more, this is when it certain pioneers started to complement the supply of imported ketchup with domestic production. The first man to manufacture tomato ketchup on a commercial scale in Poland was Stanisław Fenrych. In 1919, he purchased an estate in the Greater Poland village of Pudliszki (pronounced pood-LEESH-kee) where he set up orchards, vegetable gardens and a factory to turn the produce into marmalades, jams and preserves. According to Pudliszki corporate lore, his neighbours expected that pears would sooner grow on a willow tree than his business venture would become profitable, so he defiantly put a pear-bearing willow in his company's logo and soon proved the naysayers wrong. In 1927, Fenrych sent his advisors to Britain to obtain tomato seeds, believing that British varieties would do well in Polish climate. The advisors brought back not only the seeds, but also a recipe for tomato ketchup. Its industrial production began in Pudliszki in the following year. In 1929, the business was visited by Polish President Ignacy Mościcki; at a dinner given in his honour, he was served hard-boiled eggs with ketchup as a starter.[5]

The idea to make tomato ketchup was soon taken up by other entrepreneurs in the region, as you can see in the advertisements that were placed in local papers of the time.

The Industrial Food Processing Plant is in the hands of an experienced professional, Mr. Wincenty Paetz, the sole owner. Under the "Pecowin" trademark, the business produces choice natural vinegar, wine vinegars, mustard, fruit juices, sauerkraut, dill pickles in barrels, canned cucumbers, the excellent "Tomato-ketchup" sauce, tomato paste, pickled mushrooms in tins and jars, gherkins and other pickles. It is a Christian and Polish establishment.
Reklama Zakładów Przemysłowych Przetworów Żywnościowych Wincentego Paetza, in: Rewja Mód, No. 3, Poznań: Jan Lange, 1935, p. 14, own translation
Zakłady Przemysłowe Przetworów Żywnościowych znajdują się w rękach wytrawnego fachowca, p. Wincentego Paetza, jedynego właściciela. Przedsiębiorstwo to produkuje najprzedniejszy ocet naturalny pod prawnie zastrzeż. nazwą „Pecowin”, octy winne, musztardę, soki owocowe, kapustę kiszoną, ogórki w beczkach i konserwy jak: sterylizowane ogórki w puszkach, wyśmienity sos pomidorowy „Tomato-ketchup”, ekstrakty pomidorowe, grzybki marynowane w słoikach i puszkach, pikle i korniszony. Jest to przedsiębiorstwo chrześcijańskie i polskie.

The press also published recipes for those who wanted to try making "a hot tomato sauce, so-called katsup or ketchup",[6] at home. The trend continued even under German occupation, when this way of preserving tomatoes was encouraged by Polish-language Nazi papers.

As for sauces, I can recommend to you the "ketchup", almost unknown in our country, something akin to Kabul sauce. Take 6 kg of well ripened tomatoes, boil them down completely by stewing them without water. Then press them through a sieve and add 2 tablespoons of salt, one cup of sugar, one teaspoon each of paprika and crushed pepper, allspice, bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, mace and ginger. Some of these spices may be omitted. Place all the spices in a small muslin bag and boil it in one litre of vinegar. Once the tomatoes are well thickened (after about 5 hours of stewing), mix them with the spiced vinegar and boil again for 15 minutes. Then pour the mixture into heated bottles and seal with paraffin wax.
Sabina: Nasz dom: Tanie urozmaicenie, in: Nowy Kurier Warszawski, No. 218, Warszawa: 15 September 1942, p. 3.
The recipe is almost identical to the one for "catsup" in: Elżbieta Kiewnarska: Oszczędne konserwowanie jarzyn na zimę, Warszawa: 1941, p. 42

What's most curious here is the explanation that ketchup was "something akin to Kabul sauce". If you're wondering what that was, it's, well, something akin to ketchup – hot tomato sauce seasoned with garlic and chilli, named after the Afghan capital, produced in Britain since the 19th century and particularly popular in the Russian Empire (for example, as one of the original ingredients of the classic Russian olivye salad), including the Russian partition of Poland. One of the characters in The Doll, a great Polish novel by Bolesław Prus that is set in Russian Poland, speculated that if "the year 1879 began with a victory in Afghanistan for the British, who entered Kabul under General [Frederick] Roberts", then "no doubt Kabul sauce will get dearer!"[7]

Polish fast-food hit, a zapiekanka with a generous squeeze of ketchup

Such imperialist novelties as ketchup had hard time getting adopted in postwar Communist Poland, even though, in 1947, the Polish patent office agreed to register the Heinz trademark for an American company which wished to sell the Polish people its "ketchup (a kind of hot sauce)".[8] In his young-adult novel published in 1960 under the title You Shall Become a Red Indian Too, Wiktor Woroszylski described a typical American delicacy as "wieners in tomato sauce",[9] apparently believing that "hot dogs with ketchup" would have been completely incomprehensible to the Polish youth. It was only at the end of the 1970s that Poland's Communist authorities allowed a degree of private enterprise in the catering industry. This move quickly led to small family-owned food-service establishments, known as "small gastronomy", mushrooming all over the country. They usually took the form of little stands or travel trailers turned food trucks selling grilled sausages, French fries, hot dogs and zapiekanki (the Polish answer to hot dogs, that is, baguettes topped with mushrooms and melted cheese), all covered with ample doses of tomato ketchup. Or "ketchuk" as some of the patrons, still unfamiliar with the condiment, mispronounced it.[10] The 1980s in Poland also saw the rise of grill parties (patterned on American BBQ), which would soon grow into a national pastime.

After that, it wasn't long before Polish people fell in love with ketchup's sweet taste. And even though tomato is now the only variety many of them can imagine, you can still find the seemingly tautological "tomato ketchup" on some labels. Which allowed for a nice wordplay in a 1997 commercial; its tagline literally meant "whatever tomato has, ketchup has it too", which in Polish goes like this:

To co ma pomidor, to ma to ketchup.
Cezary Filew: brand tagline for Zakład Przetwórstwa Owocowo-Warzywnego Kotlin, Corporate Profiles DDB, 1997; quoted in: Janusz R. Kowalczyk: Najlepsze polskie reklamy ostatnich 20 lat, in: Culture.pl, Instytut Adama Mickiewicza, 2013


Mustard ingredients: mustard seeds (already ground), pears and gingerbread (already cooked down to a paste)

On a sunny May day, I paid a visit to a fellow blogger, Michał Górecki, who on that particular day happened to be not grilling, but smoking food in his backyard. But considering that mustard and ketchup go just as well with smoked meat, fish, even cheese, as with grilled, we decided to try two old-time recipes for these condiments. Marcin, yet another food blogger, would then come along to take part in the tasting session.

As I wrote above, mustard used to be rather sweet in the past, so this is what we did: pear-and-gingerbread-flavoured mustard. In Toruń, Poland's gingerbread capital, you can easily buy gingerbread mustard, and you can find a recipe for "grusztarda", or pear mustard, in the Jadłonomia vegan blog; but I bet you've never had mustard flavoured with both pears and gingerbread before. This is the original historical recipe:

Take as much black mustard seeds ground down to flour as you wish. Take fresh pears, bake them, grind in a clay bowl and press through a sieve. […] Add as much strong wine vinegar as you need, grated honey cake, as much honey or sugar as you need, small amounts of cinnamon, ginger, cloves; mix it all and leave in a warm place to ferment, then store and add small amounts to your dishes.
Promptuarium medicum empiricum […] z przydatkiem Apteki domowej, Kraków: 1716, p. 249; quoted in: Jarosław Dumanowski: Staropolskie przepisy kulinarne: Receptury rozproszone z XVI–XVIII w.: Źródła drukowane, Warszawa: Muzeum Pałacu Króla Jana III w Wilanowie, 2016, p. 306, own translation
Weźmij gorczycy czarnej na mąkę utłuczonej, ile chcesz, weźmij gruszek świeżych, upiecz je, zwierć w donicy, przebij przez sito, […] przylej octu winnego mocnego, ile potrzeba, miodowniku utartego, miodu patoki albo cukru według potrzeby, cynamonu, imbiru, goździków po trosze, umieszaj, postaw w cieple przez kilka dni, aby zakisło, potem schowaj i dawaj po trosze do potraw.

How to make it at home? First, we ground the mustard seeds (we used white instead of black) in a mortar. If you've got quern-stones, then even better. You could used a coffee grinder, but only if you're okay with drinking mustard-flavoured coffee later on. Once the seeds are ground, mix the mustard flour with a little cold water – just enough to obtain a thick mush. It's the water that helps release the enzymes which produce the specific mustard flavour. At this point you could add some vinegar, a little salt and you'd already have some basic mustard. But what we want is mustard with pears and gingerbread.

So then we had to peel, core and dice the pears, and then stew them with a little water, while adding small amounts of vinegar to keep it bubbling (we used apple vinegar, but wine vinegar would be best). Once the fruits were soft, I added crushed gingerbread cookies that had been left over from last Christmas. The recipe calls for "honey cake" and then various spices, but the gingerbread already contained honey and the same spices (cinnamon, cloves, pepper, ginger and cardamom). After this pear-and-gingerbread mixture had cooked down to a homogenous paste (you can hasten the process with a blender) and cooled down, there remained only one more step: combining it with the mustard paste in roughly equal proportion. We also added a pinch of turmeric to give our mustard the familiar mustard-yellow colour (no cheating here; mustards have been dyed yellow with turmeric for ages). We did wait a little for the flavours to develop, but we didn't wait for the mustard to ferment.

Ketchup ingredients: tomato paste, anchovies, shallots and brandy

And what about the ketchup? For this, I picked an early-19th-century English recipe which has the characteristics of a transition period in ketchup history: it already contained tomatoes, but still contained fish. The fish, in this case, was anchovies.

Gather a gallon of fine, red, and full ripe tomatas; mash them with one pound of salt; 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; 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; 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.
William Kitchiner: Apicius Redivivus: The Cook's Oracle, London: John Hatchard, 1818, p. 479–480

The original recipe says you should first cure the tomatoes in a frightening amount of salt. We opted for a quicker solution using much less salt (actually, no salt at all except the heavily salted anchovies) and with vinegar providing the tart taste. We started by sautéing a few shallots in oil. Then we added three little jars of anchovies; the smell that wafted then in the air made all dogs in the neighbourhood bark like crazy. Once the fish was cooked down to a paste, we added some peeled tomatoes and then stewed a little more, while seasoning the mixture with allspice, nutmeg, ginger and coriander, as well as (this was my own idea) lovage and summer savoury. And, to make our ketchup at least a little more like the ketchup we're used to, we sweetened it with a soupçon of sugar. One thing we didn't have was cochineal, so we couldn't dye our ketchup red and had to settle for the orangish tinge typical for tomato soup. Once the whole thing cooled down, it was blended and enriched (according to the original recipe) with a glass of brandy.

Was it edible?
English subtitles available.
Was it edible?
English subtitles available.

My opinion is that the mustard was great: very sharp, but also clearly spicy and sweet. Ketchup, on the other hand, tasted nothing like your regular store-bought ketchup. But still, the flavour was kind of familiar… Have you ever had pizza with anchovies?


  1. Stanisław Czerniecki: Compendium ferculorum albo Zebranie potraw, Kraków: w drukarni Jerzego i Mikołaja Schedlów, 1682, p. 95
  2. Naomichi Ishige: Cultural Aspects of Fermented Fish Products in Asia, in: Cherl-Ho Lee, Keith H. Steinkraus, P.J. Alan Reilly: Fish Fermentation Technology, Tokyo – New York – Paris: United Nations University Press, 1993, p. 22
  3. To Make Katch-up That Will Keep Twenty Years, in: A Curious Collection of Receipts in Cookery, Pickling, Family Physic, London: R. Montagu, 1742, p. 22–23; quoted in: Andrew F. Smith: Pure Ketchup: A History of America's National Condiment, with Recipes, Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1996, p. 164
  4. Podróż do Ameryki, in: Księga Uciechy i Pożytku, No. 3, Warszawa: Bolesław Londyński, 4 April 1903, p. 164
  5. Karolina Sternal: Polski ketchup narodził się w wielkopolskich Pudliszkach, in: Głos Wielkopolski, Poznań: Polska Press, 9 May 2011
  6. Kącik dobrej gospodyni, in: Chwila, No. 7320, Lwów: Spółka Wydawnicza Chwila, 10 August 1939, p. 8
  7. Bolesław Prus: The Doll, translated by David Welsh, Central European University Press, 1996, p. 492
  8. Wiadomości Urzędu Patentowego RP, R. 23, z. 7/8, Warszawa: 30 August 1947, p. 134
  9. Wiktor Woroszylski: I ty zostaniesz Indianinem, 1960; quoted in: Maja Łozińska, Jan Łoziński: Historia polskiego smaku: Kuchnia, stół, obyczaje, Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PNW, 2013, p. 270
  10. Zapiekanki z „keczukiem” wprost z przyczepy kempingowej: Początki małej gastronomii, in: TVP Info, Warszawa: Telewizja Polska, 28 March 2015


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