Posted on 30 July 2008 by

Tomato Travels – Part 5

By Kira Hamman

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

What were they doing with tomatoes during the civil war?

Check out this recipe from the 1861 edition of The Housekeeper’s Encyclopedia:


  • 1 gallon tomatoes
  • 3 tbs. salt
  • 3 tbs. ground black pepper
  • 3 tbs. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 4 peppers, sweet, not hot
  • 1 onion (optional)
  • 1 quart horseradish juice (roots grated and liquid pressed out)

Select tomatoes not overripe, skin and strain the tomatoes; to every gallon add three table-spoons of salt, three of ground black pepper, three of mustard, and one teaspoon of ground allspice; mix the spices in a part of the tomato, and strain them through a sieve;

Put in a small bag four large pods of sweet peppers and, if relished, one onion, and boil them with the catsup while it is being reduced; add the expressed juice of one quart of horseradish, and reduce it until it is of the proper consistency to pour from the bottles without difficulty; let the catsup remain in the bottles, with a piece of cotton cloth tied loosely on the neck, for three months to ripen, when cork and seal tightly.

Tomatoes were not alone with this questionable treatment; mushrooms, walnuts, even oysters were turned into “catsup” by the housekeeper of the 1860s. Yikes. Now that our culture has embraced the germ theory of disease, let’s hope no one’s trying this at home (or anywhere else) anymore…

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