The online magazine
dedicated to the
discussion & revival
of British foodways.

NO.53
SUMMER2017

Cucumber ketchup

Oddly enough, this unexpectedly rich ketchup from the redoubtable North British author, editor, patriot and compatriot of Sir Walter Scott, Christian Isobel Johnstone, tastes something like a tangy cream of chicken soup.


 

  • Green-Cucumber-Cries-of-London.jpg2 biggish cucumbers, peeled and grated on the big holes of a box grater or blasted in a food processor.
  • heaped Tablespoon good coarse salt, like Maldon
  • heaped Tablespoon mince fresh or jarred ginger
  • 1 teaspoon grated horseradish
  • a grinding of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • a minced big shallot

 


  1. Mix the salt with the cucumber muck and cover the bowl with a cloth overnight.
  2. Push the muck through a fine strainer to extract as much liquid as possible: Toss the solids.
  3. Boil the cucumber liquid with all the other ingredients for about 10 minutes.
  4. Let the ketchup cool before straining and bottling it.

Notes:

-“Keep in all the seeds,” as Mrs. Johnstone advises her reader.

-As she notes, this “is an excellent preparation for flavouring sauces for boiled fowls, dishes of veal, rabbits, or the more insipid meats.”

-Mrs. Johnstone wrote her sole cookbook, The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, in 1829 under the pseudonym Meg Dods, a character from Scott’s novel St. Ronan’s Well. She was so successful in mimicking his comic style in the books putative introduction that rumors persist he wrote it. The Manual is one of the strangest, funniest and best cookbooks ever written and a masterwork of Scots cultural nationalism.

-Maria Eliza Rundell includes a recipe for cucumber ketchup in her New System of Domestic Cookery from 1847. It ads a lot of other ingredients to the mix:

“Take an equal quantity of large cucumbers and large onions, pare, and slice them; throw over them a handful of salt, and let them stand all night in a sieve placed over a pan. Take the liquor and boil it up, with a quarter of a pound of anchovies to every dozen of cucumbers, a pint of white wine, a nutmeg, a quarter of an ounce of mace, and half an ounce of whole pepper, strain it, and when cold bottle it…. ”

-The seasoning of anchovy, mace and nutmeg is prototypical of eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century British cookery.

-Mrs. Rundell’s more complicated and expensive recipe for cucumber ketchup is good, but in the estimation of the Editor not as good as Mrs. Johnstone’s.