Plum Ketchup



(A visit to the Niagara Escarpment, more photos below…)




Close your eyes and open your mind to let ketchup become more than you think it is.


That red puree we think we know so well has origins in China (doesn’t nearly everything?!?) as a fish-sauce condiment called kê-chiap or ke-tchup (From “the syllable tchuppronounced zhi in Mandarin—still means “sauce” in many Chinese dialects”) made from fermented fish and spices.  During centuries of its evolution the base ingredient of ketchup has shifted to salted anchovies, then soybeans were used in certain regions, then as this tangy sludge migrated to the U.K. (via Fiji) the mutations included beer, mushrooms and walnuts.

Tomatoes were not introduced until sometime in the early 1800’s and often anchovies were still in the mix.  Eventually the anchovies were dropped and the sugar industry in the New World provided a way to preserve the condiment and set it upon the sweet-and-sour path that we know (and love) today.

We use the term Fusion Cuisine for this practice of melding different culinary elements, but obviously we have been fusing since we started eating… we’re just faster at it these days.


Read more about ketchup anthropology in this 2012 article.





I served this plum ketchup with two strong cheese I had on hand: the lovely Sartori MontAmoré from eastern Wisconsin, and Sharp Cheddar that we picked up from the small cheese plant Golden Age Cheese while driving through the massive hills of rural southwestern New York.  An area rich in cheddar, their most aged potent variety in the shop was labeled ‘Jurassic’.




Fruits are an obvious base for the modern day chutney-like ketchups, and plums are like the beets of the fruit world—packed with flavor and sometimes forgotten about.  I love plums.  I first made plum ketchup under the instruction of Lenny Russo (check out his Heartland in St. Paul) in the newly opened Loring Cafe days of the early 90’s.  I don’t remember the details of the recipe, just that it rocked.

This version could be served with duck, chicken, pork, samosas, sausages, or grilled brie sandwiches.




Plum Ketchup

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30-45 minutes


Combine in a sauce pot:

1 1/2 pounds Purple or Plums (around 6) — if you use tart wild plums, more sugar may be needed

2 cloves Garlic, minced

1/4 cup Sugar

1/3 cup Cider Vinegar

1/4-1/3 cup Water

1 teaspoon Fresh Ginger, grated OR 1/2 teaspoon Dried Ginger, ground

1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt

1/2 teaspoon Dried Mustard

1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Allspice

1/8 teaspoon Cayenne

Black Pepper

Simmer 30 minutes or until cooked down and mushy.  

Taste and adjust.

Either serve as a chunky chutney or puree in a blender or food processor.  

If you wish for an even smoother texture press the ketchup through a sieve or fine strainer.  


Other ingredient possibilities:

Red Wine


Star Anise






More images of the Niagara Escarpment in Peninsula State Park, Wisconsin.





Looking up at the split…






A tiny cairn








1 thought on “Plum Ketchup”

  • Wow; who is the photographer; my conputer eyes expected Niagara Falls so I had to go back – the recipe sounds delightful – I just don’t do anything new – don’t ever let that happen to you!!

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