Geo Watkins Mushroom Ketchup, Leigh, Lancashire, England – Blighty’s, Orangeville $11.99 plus shipping (190 ml bottle)

Having grown up in the United Kingdom, I’m utterly astonished that I had never encountered this ingredient until only six weeks ago, here in Canada. And it’s been around since 1830.

I was looking at one of Nigel Slater’s recipes for mushrooms on toast, and he mentioned his father’s predilection for Mushroom Ketchup; I immediately thought “What??? That sounds utterly disgusting… ketchup made out of mushrooms?”. As it turns out, historically ketchup was primarily made from mushrooms long before the tomato-based ketchups we are familiar with today.

Mushroom ketchup is produced by packing fresh and/or dry mushrooms in salt, allowing time for the liquid from the mushrooms to fill the container, and then cooking in an oven with spices such as mace, nutmeg, and black pepper. Some recipes involve the addition of vinegar. The resultant liquid is separated from the solids, and the solid portion is discarded.

Several UK companies still produce mushroom ketchup to this day: Crosse and Blackwell’s Mushroom Catsup, Morton’s Mushroom Ketchup, Jacky’s Pantry Mushroom Ketchup and the Geo Watkins Mushroom Ketchup I recommend here. I’d be curious to try the other brands.

So how does it taste? Well… imagine Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, but without all the vinegar, sweetness, and sourness from the tamarind, and then add a load of mushroomy goodness, a veritable explosion of umami unequalled in any other condiment bar, perhaps, commercial umami paste. Personally I much prefer the warm, slightly smokey, mushroom notes on this.

I’ve been adding it to so many dishes lately: rabbit/leek/mushroom stew, creamy pork Stroganov, cassoulet, and numerous soups; I feel that it has added an extra-tasty additional layer of flavour to all of them, and I see this becoming a staple in our pantry.

Shipping from the UK is absolutely extortionate these days, so I’ve been ordering from Blighty’s British Store in Orangeville as they charged $10 shipping for two bottles. It’s a great source for frozen Macsween frozen haggis too BTW, but you’ll have to drop in to pick that up as they don’t ship that. Although I’ve never seen this stuff before, perhaps it can be purchased elsewhere, so please leave a comment if you find it available anywhere else in Canada.

(Five out of a possible five apples)