I adore ketchup; love the stuff, put it on so very many things. Eggs, grilled cheese, burgers, nearly everything can be improved with a little bit of the red sauce. However, as big of a fan as I am of tomato ketchup, I had never tried, nor even heard of, walnut ketchup, which apparently is quite a thing. Also mushroom ketchup. I likely just live under a rock. Quite possible. So I found this recipe from 1845 that I am going to try and make today involving walnuts, beer, vinegar, and anchovies. It’s another one that I’m unsure of the results but is likely going to be delicious and I just lack imagination.
Our recipe today comes to us from Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery For Private Families. Acton was born in Sussex on April 17th, 1799, and she would become not only a writer of cooking books, but also a poet. Apparently, she introduced the practice of listing ingredients, giving cooking times, and troubleshooting. Which is frankly pretty cool. Her cookbook was written to a middle class audience, as evidenced in the title, and the recipes included were varied with some quite simple and others complex. She would later go on to write a history of bread-making in England. My source and more information on Acton can be found here.
In her book she had one recipe that included beer, specifically, old strong beer. And that is our Walnut Catsup recipe for today. The recipe is as follows:
I followed the recipe fairly dead on. The only thing I wasn’t sure of was how long to leave the walnuts, So I looked up some other recipes for walnut ketchup and one from 1904 said to leave them around a week. I will say they did not turn black. After that, I followed the recipe completely. With the exception that I did not have mace, so I substituted more nutmeg. When I was doing the second boil, the anchovies disintegrated quickly and it reduced to quite a thick consistency, thicker than tomato ketchup.
Now, what was I going to use the ketchup for?
With that in mind, I opted to buy a vintage white cheddar and use the ketchup like a chutney.
Our writer says it will keep for a dozen years or more. Now I could pretend like I’m going to save it intentionally for a few years to try at a later date. But the reality is that I will put it in the black hole that is the back of my refrigerator where I will promptly forget its very existence until something calls to me a decade into the future and I’ll dig it out and we can play will she/won’t she with food poisoning. But I digress.
Ketchup: Let’s judge the ketchup like it’s a homebrew competition: The most predominant flavour at first is the tanginess from the vinegar. The beer adds hints of malty sweetness and is supported by the nutmeg and clove, which also give it a little bit of spice. The anchovies of course add some salty notes as well as umami, as do the walnuts. A tart, salty, slightly spicy ketchup with lots of umami.
Other recipes for walnut ketchup include two kinds of brown sugar and so are likely much sweeter than this one, but I think the slight sweetness from the beer is a welcome addition and works well here without making the ketchup sweet. It’s definitely leaning way more to vinegary saltiness with a lovely spice.
And with the cheese on rye crispbreads: This was nice in that the cheddar brought out the tartness, but I think the other recipes using it as an accompaniment to venison or bacon would be a slightly better combination. Also steak.