Colonial Condiments

Historic Foodways is always looking for new ways to bring the taste of the past to the present. To this end, we have teamed up with our products and restaurants to create a line of historically inspired condiments.

Now we can taste some of the early versions of catsup and mustard for ourselves.Condiments1

Let me introduce an old way to spice up your meal.

Some background on the products:

Old_Stitch1Mustard was very popular in 18th-century England and her colonies. It was used as whole seeds or even ground into a powder they called flour of mustard.

Many chocolate makers used their mills in the off season to grind mustard. The powder was often rolled into balls and sold to be mixed up with water, wine or in this case old stitch beer to form a paste.catsup

  • The term catsup seems to be an English corruption of the Malaysian word Khe chap.

The early recipes for catsup have nothing to do with tomatoes. The firss catsups where based on vinegar and fish.

Condiments2Our 18th-century cookbooks contain recipes for oyster catsup, mushroom catsup, and walnut catsup as well as what was called English catsup. This is much like modern day Worchester sauce.

The tomato is a New World plant but was not native to Virginia. It was being grown and was beginning to be eaten in 18th-century Williamsburg.

One early advocate of tomatoes in Williamsburg was a physician who came from Portugal. He persuaded many Virginians that tomatoes were tasty and good to eat. Condiment3

Their use grew slowly here in Virginia. By the time the first cook book was written in Virginia in 1824, they were becoming more common. This book — “The Virginia Housewife” by Mary Randolph, has a number of recipes for tomatoes including the first recipe for a tomato catsup and two tomato marmalades.

The tomato catsup recipe is very different from the modern condiment. It is a liquid and is pretty spicy.

We selected a slightly later version from “The Carolina Housewife.” It has thicker consistency and is well spiced, but it has very little sugar compared to modern catsup. The product we now think of as catsup was marketed by Mr. Heinz in 1876.

“The Virgina Housewife” also has two versions of tomato marmalades — a sweet and a savory. The Jane Vobe’s tomato conserve comes from the sweet one.

Our version of this recipe is actually from one of our chef’s grandmothers, but is quite similar to Mary’s.

Want to try some of these products? Visit our Marketplace.



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2 Responses to “Colonial Condiments”

  1. December 2nd, 2014

    Robyn says:

    I bought a jar of the tomato conserve last month while in CW. It was good, but much too sweet (to my taste) as I was expecting a more savory, less jam-like, condiment.

  2. August 23rd, 2018

    stephanie says:

    Is there a particular cookbook that contains a receipt for walnut ketsup that you have used? I have a beef receipt that calls for it and would prefer to use an 18th century receipt rather than a modern one to create the walnut ketsup if at all possible. Thanks!

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