My curiosity was piqued when I saw something called Mushroom Ketchup mentioned as an ingredient in a recipe. A little research aroused my interest even more. I learned that mushroom ketchup is a liquid mushroom flavor concentrate and not a thick sauce like the word ketchup conjures up. I wasted no time placing an order for a bottle of the stuff online. I also found a couple of sites detailing the process for making it:
The mushroom ketchup I ordered isn’t scheduled to arrive until sometime in February, so I was inspired to go ahead and make my own version without having ever tasted the real thing. The project was entirely experimental so this should not be taken as a “how-to” or instructional post.
I took into consideration the ingredient list for the product I had ordered and also the recommendations of the websites listed above. To make my mushroom extract I decided to use dried shiitake mushrooms of which I had plenty in the pantry.
While I have some experience extracting flavors and medicinal properties from plant matter I am by no means an expert. Plant extracts are made by soaking (macerating) plant material in a solvent (menstruum). Common solvents are water, alcohol, vinegar, oil and glycerine – alcohol being the most effective.
Methods used are:
- Infusion: Steeping, or soaking, in water (usually hot) in the manner tea is made. Leaves, flowers and tender stems are used.
- Decoction: Boiling in water. Used for tougher plant parts such as tough stems and roots.
- Tincture: Alcohol is used as the solvent. Plant matter is soaked (macerated) therein for days, weeks or months before the plant matter (marc) is removed and the liquid expressed from it.
I began with the tincture method by soaking the dried shiitake mushroom slices in alcohol. On further thought I also added powdered mushrooms, dried minced onion and dried minced garlic to the alcohol. I prefer using 100 proof alcohol or higher for tinctures but used what was on hand.
Since this project was more for extracting flavor than medicinal properties I switched to the decoction method of extraction after the mushrooms had macerated in alcohol for only a few days. I transferred everything into a cooking pot, added malt vinegar, brown rice vinegar, soy sauce, a dollop of homegrown prepared horseradish and some turbinado sugar to balance the vinegar. This was left to simmer for a good while, during which time the alcohol no doubt dissipated.
Partway through simmering I blended the mash to a slurry using a hand blender.
The slurry was strained through a clean damp cloth and all the liquid squeezed out. The expressed liquid was then bottled and refrigerated.
The sauce tastes wonderful, but I’m not sure it can legitimately be called Mushroom Ketchup. I am eagerly anticipating tasting my sauce side by side with the real product when it arrives soon in the mail.
The leftover mushroom solids are slated to be used to make shiitake mushroom burgers, which could be the subject of a future post if they prove worthy of mention.