By Vida Gustafson

Contributing Writer

This is not the sweet, red condiment we all know and love. This is what our ancestors in the western world would have recognized as ketchup: a thin, brown, umami bomb, with a lot more in common with Worcestershire sauce than tomato sauce — historically made with anything from walnuts to anchovies or mushrooms with a myriad of spices and herbs and often fermented to boot.

This recipe is an adaptation from an authentic 18th-century recipe and method. It produces approximately a pint of delicious mushroom-flavored seasoning sauce to use on steak, burgers or to flavor soups. It also produces 5-6 ounces of dry seasoning that you can (and should) sprinkle on anything. I like it best on grilled cheese, fries or roasted vegetables.

Mushrooms are full of beneficial vitamins, minerals, proteins and antioxidants, not to mention a natural source of the elusive fifth flavor, umami. If you have to season your food, you may as well add some benefits!

I have used portobello mushrooms with great success, but have had the best result from an edible wild mushroom mix. Use what’s available, seasonal and whatever tastes best to you.


  • 2 lbs organic mixed mushroom 
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 7 three-inch sprigs of thyme
  • 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 1/2 C apple cider vinegar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 tbsp horseradish
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp black pepper


In a large, non-metallic bowl (preferably porcelain or enamel), break up the mushrooms and thyme and cover with the salt. Cover and set aside overnight.

Transfer the mushrooms and all the liquid that was drawn out to a medium or large saucepan. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Remember, it is supposed to be salty and bold!  When done cooking, let cool and strain out the mushrooms using a cheese cloth or even by pouring through a fine mesh sieve. Bottle the liquid and keep it in the refrigerator for up to two months. If you are going to keep the cooked mushrooms for salty mushroomy seasoning, dry them on a baking sheet in the oven until crispy dry and run them in your food processor or blender until powdered!